Multiple local agencies need to work together to ensure economic development

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Warren County’s economic development program needs a full overhaul, and that process should involve more than just the five members of the Warren County Port Commission.

While the port commission is by state law the lead agency for the county’s economic development efforts, it should not be the only agency involved in that process. The county has several agencies — the city of Vicksburg, Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, Warren County Economic Development Foundation and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau — that are involved in one way or another in economic development, and all should have a say in setting the county’s economic development strategy — something the county does not have at this point.

As Mayor George Flaggs Jr. put it, “In my opinion, economic development is stagnant in this community and we need to come together as a board of mayor and aldermen, and the supervisors and the port commission and set a pathway to the future, so it can be on one path and one vision on economic development.”

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That’s a pretty good assessment of the county’s situation.

Presently, economic development efforts are scattered and there is very little communication between the entities in the way of regular meetings or periodic conferences to revise or develop a strategy.

And while port director Wayne Mansfield says his constantly communicates with the other entities, it’s not enough. The county’s economic development efforts should be handled by one agency solely dedicated to that purpose, funded by a public-private partnership and governed by a board composed of government officials and business leaders. And the county shouldn’t have to rely on the state to provide most of the potential leads on companies; it should pursue an aggressive policy to find companies on its own.

The port commission is supposed to discuss economic development at a June 6 meeting. It needs to get the city, the chamber of commerce, the economic development foundation and the VCVB in the conversation. Economic development should be a team effort, and some members of the team aren’t able to get involved in the game.