MCITy grand opening highlights what can be accomplished through teamwork

Published 4:19 pm Saturday, April 6, 2024

The Mississippi Center for Innovation & Technology offers valuable lessons on intergovernmental and private sector alignment for transformational economic development.

If you watch the national news, it may seem as if many elected officials would rather throw the baby out with the bathwater than find common ground, solve problems, and improve the future of their communities. Furthermore, you would also be tempted to conclude that government and the private sector are opposite forces fighting for their own self-interest, incapable
of aligning for the common good. It seems like the national leaders could benefit from learning from the collaborative efforts of the people of Vicksburg and Warren County.

The recent grand opening of the MCITy project in downtown Vicksburg is a good case study of what can be achieved when time and resources are invested in creating an alignment of mission and goals within a community. Looking at the past few years and, since the creation of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, this community has achieved an admirable level of synergy among institutions that is now providing real results out of what seemed, at first sight, lofty or unreachable goals. To quote Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith at the recent Grand Opening of MCITy, “In Vicksburg the pie is no longer in the sky, the pie is in MCITy.”

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What other communities might categorize as admirable (to see city and county governments come together to celebrate the culmination of years of work to make a project like MCITy possible), seems a rather routine sight in Vicksburg. It is certainly an enviable position for the region to have a private sector that is not only attuned to the mission of economic development, but that is actively investing in helping the government accomplish the region’s goals. The Vicksburg Warren County Economic Development Foundation ( EDF) has led the charge in not only dreaming the dreams but also in making sure they become reality. In the shuffle and hustle of the day to day, it is easy to lose sight of the private sector’s unique involvement in the ongoing transformation of the region. But make no mistake, the EDF members are making a huge impact for generations to come.

Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, recently recalled the first steps in the resurgence of the EDF.

“Back in 2017, EDF had a bit of debt and practically no members,” he said. “With the creation of the ED Partnership, and with the establishment of our first strategic plan, the private sector partners responded to our call for unity and support. The membership started to grow and the expertise the EDF members brought to the table proved to be an essential component to our ability to successfully pursue ambitious projects like MCITy. We knew that if we maintained a spirit of collaboration and offered access to subject matter knowledge, we could accomplish anything we set out to do for the community. That carefully crafted balance continues to exist in our area today thanks to the commitment of the city, the county, and the members of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partner- ship, led by the EDF. MCITy was the EDF’s first stretch goal and we are ecstatic to see the results today. In the immediate future, we will continue to focus on our second stretch goal, which is getting the port expansion project accomplished and locating companies into the project.”

In striking contrast to 2017, the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Foundation now has more than 40 members whose support assures the community can develop and execute successful economic development plans. The members of the EDF include Ergon, Golding Barge, Fondren Investments, Cantwell Anderson Inc., Visit Vicksburg, The Vicksburg Post, Mutual Credit Union, Fordice Construction, Neel Schaffer, Headwaters Inc., Morrison Companies, Vicksburg Insurance Agency, Teller, Hassell & Hopson, Bailess & Rector LLP, Trustmark National Bank, Blackburn Motor Co., RiverHills Bank, Big River Shipbuilders, May & Co., Chick Fil-A, Merit Health River Region, Curb Appeals Real Estate, Foam Packaging, McDonalds, Monument Financial Partners, Lorelei Books, Regions Bank, Falco Chemical, Waring Oil Company, LLC, Cadence Bank, Dr. David Fagan, Ellis, Dees & Sadler, Guaranty Bank & Trust, Smith Boat Leasing, International Paper, Varner, Parker & Sessums, Boolas + Oakes CPA Firm, Mississippi Lime Co., MMC Materials, Ryan Lee Edwards Jones, Riverwalk Casino, and Delta Bank.

For more information about joining the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Foundation call 601-636-1012.