No more what if, it is time to start saying why not

Published 5:18 pm Thursday, August 10, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a glimpse of what Vicksburg can become.

I had taken a couple of vacation days to visit family in Norcross, Ga., and on the return trip home stopped for lunch in Meridian. I was surprised at the growth that occurred there.

I worked in Meridian for four years in the mid to late 1990s. At the time, the city was in the same situation as Vicksburg. A lot of potential but not a lot of drive to take advantage of what was available. The city’s main claim to fame was the Jimmy Rogers Festival, which was a minor league version of what it had once been. Bonita Lakes, a prime recreation and picnic area with a well-landscaped walking track, was sparsely used. The Amtrak station was a stopping point for going east and west on the rails.

The Partnership, the entity that was supposed to set the economic development strategy for Meridian and Lauderdale County, was governed by a board of more than 10 people.

People spent too much time wondering why they couldn’t have what Tupelo, or Jackson, or Canton, or Madison had.

When I left the area for the Coast in 1997, people were talking about the development of a major shopping mall for the city that was seen as the catalyst to get Meridian and Lauderdale County out of the doldrums. But there was more than that. True, the shopping area was the catalyst, but the people stopped asking “What if?” and “Why can’t we?” and said, “Why not.”

When we stopped to eat lunch on the way home, I was surprised at the growth and the retail traffic on the streets during a weekday, and it made me think of what Vicksburg can become if all the positive vibes I keep hearing around here lately materialize.

I’m not saying Vicksburg should become Meridian. We are a different city with a different culture and different attractions, one of which is recognized worldwide in the Vicksburg National Military Park. But we need to become aggressive about changing, and I’m starting to see that happen.

Our city and community leaders have taken the right steps. They’ve hired a very competent, aggressive and well-respected individual as their economic development director. The members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen are saying the right things and making the right initial moves. A high tech center is being planned for the city to take advantage of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Engineering Research and Development Center’s presence.

The sports complex is getting closer to reality.

It will take time for all these things to materialize, of course, and we still have some people out in the community who would much rather see our area stay the same and who question the need for a sports complex or additional attractions to our city.

But it’s time to change. If we stay the same, we die as a city.

We need move ahead. 

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

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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