Supervisors approving merger is a good sign they are starting to take economic development seriously

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When astronaut Neil Armstrong took man’s first steps on the moon, he called it “a giant leap for mankind.”
The Warren County Board of Supervisors’ vote Tuesday approving a plan to merge Vicksburg’s and Warren County’s economic development efforts is a giant leap in our economic future. It’s something that has been a long time coming, and a return to a proven economic development program the county had back in 2000, when the county’s previous economic development efforts, where three economic development-related organizations —the chamber, the Vicksburg Warren County Economic Development Foundation and the port commission — were placed under one director and all three organizations participated in paying the director’s salary.
“The last real economic prosperity our community had — I think the most successful era that we’ve had in recent history — was during the (Jimmy) Heidel reign,” Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce president Mark Buys said, referring to former county economic development director Jimmy Heidel and the county’s previous efforts.
“That model had proven to be very successful, and all three entities: the port commission, chamber of commerce and the economic development foundation shared in the responsibilities of the compensation package, and that’s what we’re doing (now). Actually, by doing that, you’re able to pool your resources and attract a super star (industry), and that’s what happened.”
But the supervisors are one of several players in the decision to merge economic development.
It took the Warren County Port Commission to realize the importance of its new director concentrating on economic development and then work with the chamber of commerce Board of Directors to combine the two directorships and lay the groundwork for the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the supervisors to support the merger.
The port commission was wise to hire a consultant to advise them and handle the search for suitable candidates for the director’s position, and then hire a man with strong credentials; someone who is recognized, not only by state economic development officials, but by our state’s congressional delegation for his ability. A man people told port and chamber officials, “This is the man you need to get.”
For several years, our economic development efforts have been fragmented, and the results of this scattershot effort have been apparent. It’s good to see a decision to go back to a successful formula.
The port commission, chamber and the city and county boards should be commended for their foresight and progressive thinking to move the county’s and the city’s economy forward.
The only thing that would have made Tuesday’s decision better was if the vote were unanimous rather than 4-1.

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