GUEST COLUMN: Vicksburg’s economic development future hinges on continuous cooperation

Published 7:55 pm Saturday, August 4, 2018

Success in economic development is never happenstance. Conversely, the failure of communities to thrive is also never happenstance. Though many factors contribute to a community’s success, what ultimately determines its outcome is the quality of its leadership. The leaders of our communities and cities shape the future of those places, and their decisions carry long-term consequences that not only affect but actually determine the success or failure of a community’s long-term development strategy.

Basic components of successful economic development programs include cooperation, teamwork, and alignment of vision among institutions. No community can sustain progress without a solid partnership between its governmental institutions and its private sector. It is necessary for long term economic development success that a community provides a business climate that entices growth by displaying unity of purpose, predictability, and stability in its government and its institutions.

The formation of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership represents an important leap forward in terms of cooperation and positioning of leadership, as well as establishing the infrastructure that provides predictability and stability to potential investors. No project, no prospect, no investor in the past year has encountered discord, roughness, unprofessionalism, or struggle as they have considered our community for potential investments. That is, in part, why we have had early success, and that is why companies are once again choosing to invest in Vicksburg and Warren County. It is becoming evident to businesses that our newly formed Economic Development Partnership can lead our community in developing a business climate where they can thrive.

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It is important to remind ourselves that early wins do not guarantee sustained success, and that long term growth requires risk taking and embracing new methods, ideas, and technologies. Momentum is on our side at the moment, but momentum is a fragile thing. Continued progress will not happen without change, and change can be uncomfortable. It is in our nature to cling to the familar, the status quo. We must welcome positive, necessary change and continue to work together to project an image of stability and unity. Only in this way will we be able to compete for bigger and better job creation projects for our community.

After one year and three months in this community, I believe that the most self-defeating statement I hear is this: “We have so much potential, we are just unable to realize it.” Time and again, in so many different settings, I have heard that statement echoed. I am confident that those who make that assertion are no longer correct. We do have the potential, and we also are perfectly able to realize it, through real cooperation and by embracing much needed change in the way we approach economic development.

Potential is nothing without the ability to seize opportunity. We have always had the potential to wind projects but competing and winning requires the ability to support the structuring of deals that entice companies to relocate here. We have had the potential to build on the presence of ERDC in our region, but we could not do it without the coordination of all institutions: ERDC, the City, the County, the School District, Hinds Community College, the Economic Development Partnership, the Universities, MDA, and others. This is what the Economic Development Partnership allows us to do: take advantage of opportunities to fulfill the promise of Warren County’s full potential.

We do have immense potential and we can realize it, but we must embrace new and creative ways to do economic development; we must embrace change. We must make cooperation the number one priority among the government and private sectors. We must strive to achieve a climate of predictability that investors can trust will enhance their success, thus supporting the creation of more jobs for our residents .

Progress has been made in the past year, but much more work remains to be done. A vision and plan of action were paramount, and that is why we worked with all sectors of the community to create the Economic Development Strategic plan. This roadmap provides a simple way to think about who we are as a community and who we want to be in the future. It is now time to move into full execution of the plan, and we need all leaders in our community to continue to work together and embrace the changes that are necessary to execute the plan and grow.

Pablo Diaz is President and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership. You may reach him at 601-636-1012 or