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Government, economic leaders challenge students to be part of city’s future

Seniors at St. Aloysius got an update from city government and economic leaders on the city’s economic development and the crucial part the students play the city’s future.

“This is really all about trying to encourage our students to come back and use the skills they learned in high school and invest in their community; come back and help Vicksburg grow,” Karla McHan, St. Aloysius principal, said after the program.

The program used a question-and-answer format, with Vicksburg Mayor Geroge Flaggs Jr., Vicksburg-Warren County Economic Development Partnership Executive Director Pablo Diaz, Visit Vicksburg Director Laura Beth Strickland, Golding Barge President Austin Golding, developer Tim Cantwell, District 4 Warren County Supervisor Edward Herring and U.S. Army Research and Development Center public affairs officer Mary Margaret Edney answering questions from the students on issues involving the city.

Asked about the port, Diaz said it is at capacity with clients. He said a market analysis of the port and the area should be ready in February.

“That should tell us where we can go to increase opportunities for trade for Vicksburg,” he said. “It’s important that we do a market analysis to determine the opportunities, where they are and what do we need to be able to attract those opportunities to Vicksburg.”

Attracting those opportunities, Diaz said will mean more jobs. He also said the city is working on a river walk to take further advantage of the River as a tourist attraction.

Cantwell highlighted the conversion of the Mississippi Hardware building into the Mississippi Center for Innovation and Tech Transfer, which is seen as a concept to leverage ERDC to help more state companies have the opportunity for ERDC contracts.

He said members of his family have moved to Vicksburg, adding he and his company and family see Vicksburg “as a remarkable place, and very much want to encourage you to look at it as we look at it, and that includes the investors who have invested here.”

Asked for advice, panel members told the students to learn about the city and its opportunities available to use the tools they acquired through their education.

“Take the tough road,” Diaz said, telling the students to challenge themselves.

Besides challenging yourself, Herring said, “Be OK with failure. I failed, but I learned a lot from it; probably a life-changing event. Once you fail, you’ll find you learned more than you thought.”

Flaggs told the students to have focus and faith, “do not run from your faith, because your faith and your beliefs is what makes the value in your character show, and that creates integrity and honesty.”

“This is one of the ways you recruit and retain students in this area and this community to come back to the city of Vicksburg and showcase their education and experience and be a part of this community,” Flaggs said following the program. “I just wish all the high schools would join in and do this because we have some of the best and brightest kids in our community and they just need the opportunity to come back and serve or be a part of the economic prosperity of this community.”

Parker Brown, St. Aloysius student government president, said he is coming home after college.

“It’s very important that my generation and the generation below me come back to Mississippi,” he said. “What we learned today is that there’s so much potential in this state and in this city that we need my generation and the younger (generation) to come back here and develop it, because it’s our job now to lead this path of greatness in this city. There is so much potential with the port and inland — it’s hidden potential.”

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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