The Partnership: Great strides in first year under leadership of Diaz

Published 7:16 pm Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership is excited about progress being made and the positive effect the organization is having on the community over the past year.

The Partnership, which is comprised of the Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce, The Warren County Port Commission and the private Economic Development Foundation, was created under the leadership of Pablo Diaz, CEO and president of the organization.

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“A few days ago, I was reading a nice article that The Post published in February of 2017 where the writer said he hoped that Pablo Diaz could work his magic in Vicksburg like he did in Grenada,” Margaret Gilmer, chairwoman of the Port Commission and board member of The Partnership, said. “The heading brought a smile to my face, given the amazing first year we have had, and the many good things that are going on in our community since Pablo arrived. I would say the magic is working.”

Gilmer said that under the leadership of Diaz, The Partnership has developed an amazing capacity to get things done in the first year.

“I understand that the public mostly gets to see the flashy headlines that bring the governor to town like the attraction of new companies like Industrial Wood Products, Love’s Travel Center, or Vicksburg Forest Products, but in reality, the accomplishments are far greater than what the headlines describe,” Gilmer said. “For example, when Pablo first arrived, the Port Commission was in the middle of a legal issue that was expected to cost more than $150,000 in litigation costs. Our attorneys will attest to the fact that none thought the issue could be resolved through negotiation and out of a courtroom, but somehow, Pablo was able to use his negotiation skills to reach a resolution that not only saved us over $150,000 in litigation costs, but that is also saving the Port Commission over $45,000 each year into the future.”

Gilmer added that Diaz also negotiated increases on “ongoing” leases for the Port Commission “even though the leases were not up for renewal.

“It truly amazed us that he could do that, saving money for the commission and raising revenue all at the same time,” Gilmer said.

Mark Buys, past chairman of the Warren County Chamber of Commerce, said support of the business community has been evident and a big reason for the success of The Partnership. He believes there is a renewed sense of hope and positive expectations.

“We are changing the narrative in our community, taking our message to the right economic development stakeholders outside Warren County, and building a brighter future for our residents,” Buys said. “We were told over a year ago by Entergy, MDA, and others that if we wanted to be successful we had to attract one of the best developers in the country. That is why we formed The Partnership so that by joining forces, we would be successful in attracting a developer that could lead us to realize the great potential our community has always had. Unfortunately, we did not have much economic development activity in the past few years. Since Pablo took the helm, we are not only actively competing for projects, but we are winning them, and bringing jobs and investments back to our community.”

Bob Morrison, a local business leader and an EDF investor, agrees with Buys.

“The formation of The Partnership among the Port Commission, the Chamber and the newly revived Economic Development Foundation under the very able, professional and enthusiastic leadership of Diaz, is an important milestone in our community’s ongoing development,” Morrison said. “We all owe a debt of gratitude to the citizen volunteers and governmental officials who conceived of this partnership, made a financial commitment to support it and went out and found a world-class developer to lead it. Great things happen in our community when we work together.”

Other accomplishments in the past year under The Partnership include:

• Gaining approval of over $2,000,000 in grants for economic development projects in the community (with over $1,000,000 of those funds being utilized to make needed renovations to the terminal at the Port of Vicksburg).

• The development of a comprehensive community economic development strategic plan for Vicksburg and Warren County.

• The designation of Warren County as a Workforce Ready Community

• The development of new professional marketing materials to promote Vicksburg’s economic assets.

• The acquisition of new equipment and software at the Wastewater Plant at Ceres to secure adequate long-term service for industry in the region.

The Partnership is currently working on a new branding campaign that includes a new logo and complete overhaul of the port, chamber and EDF websites.

The Chamber recently completed a full renovation of its offices and will have an open house Aug. 9, from 4-6 p.m. to showcase the new and modern facility.