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Port Commission, chamber, economic development group form partnership

Warren County’s economic development efforts will be governed by a nine-member board of directors under a partnership approved Monday by the Warren County Port Commission, the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce and the Warren County Economic Development Foundation.

The boards signed a contract for economic development coordination that combines them into an economic development organization called the Partnership. Its board of directors will be composed of the five port commissioners and two each from the chamber and the foundation.

The port approved the agreement and economic development director Pablo Diaz’s contract at its meeting Monday afternoon. The chamber and the foundation signed off on the agreement several hours later.

Diaz’s official first day is April 1, the day the agreement becomes effective.

“I’m just delighted,” Port Commission chairman Margaret Gilmer said. “I think we have a home run in Mr. Diaz. I think Vicksburg is going to benefit greatly from this move.”

“The EDF, Port Commission and the chamber of commerce all join together under an umbrella organization that will work together to lead the economic development effort in our community,” said Mark Buys, chamber president.

“It’s really something that has never been able to be accomplished in Vicksburg, and we were able to do it in short order because we all know the benefits our community will have under this structure.”

Buys said there were some legal questions about the agreement that need to be resolved involving the organization’s structure.

“We’re working through that, and we thing in short order we’ll clear that hurdle,” he said.

He said the board of the Partnership will hold the responsibility for hiring and firing employees, and support and consult with Diaz as needed.

The collaboration is the result of discussions by the chamber and city and county officials about combining the county’s economic development efforts under one roof in connection with the Port Commission’s decision to hire Diaz as economic development/port director, with a heavy emphasis on economic development. Diaz will also serve as the chamber’s executive director.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Feb. 16 agreed to commit $20,000 a year for three years to help pay Diaz’s salary. Four days later, the supervisors approved the agreement. The chamber and Port Commission are also contributing to Diaz’s salary.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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