Aug 10, 2016
Vidalia, LA -- Economic development was the topic of conversation at the Concordia Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon Tuesday with past accomplishments and future goals outlined.
Concordia Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone and Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ addressed chamber members at the Comfort Suites in Vidalia.
Malone explained after the meeting that she and Russ had discussed ways to partner since 2010 when the Miss-Lou Regional Steering Committee suggested a joint effort between the two economic entities.
Malone said the Town of Vidalia took a more active role in economic development a year ago because of the various projects underway in town.
“They hired me and now I work 75 percent of my time on Vidalia projects and the rest of the time on parish projects,” she said, noting her recent work on the parishwide drainage project.
“Chandler and I thought about ways to partner without having to dissolve legislation or change anybody’s identity,” Malone said. “We decided that since Natchez Inc. is private, the town could contract with Natchez Inc for professional services for economic development. That was the solution to our partnership which began on Feb. 1.”
According to presentation at the chamber luncheon, Concordia has a population of 20,142, a labor force of 7,160, and 8.6 percent unemployment. Parish features include award winning public schools, STEM K-12 Curriculum–magnet and charter schools, a technical and community college campus, an emerging Mississippi River port, an emerging industrial park, an available existing industrial building, low crime rate and multiple recreational opportunities.
Natchez and Adams County have a population of 31,254, a labor force of 11,628 and 8.1 percent unemployment. County features includes Natchez private and parochial K-12 education, a community college campus, post secondary education opportunities, a developed Mississippi River port with rail on-site, developed industrial park with rail and port on-site with growth opportunities and available existing industrial building.
The region, however – comprising an area in a 50-mile radius of Natchez-Vidalia -- has a population of 202,853, a labor force of 75,132 and an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent. It is home to multiple industrial parks offering various transportation options and incentives, available existing industrial buildings, recreational opportunities, and a low crime rate.
Target markets for regional economic development include forestry products, energy/petrochemicals, metals, warehousing/distribution, food processing and agriculture products.
Benefits of the partnership include one consistent message to economic development stakeholders, an increase in quality job opportunities, an increase in population, an increase in overall economic wealth and support from multiple states.
Successes before partnering were listed as:
-- Since Natchez, Inc.'s creation in 2010, $550 million in investment has been brought to Adams County with close to 750 direct jobs.
-- The Natchez-Adams County Port has become the home to Delta Energy, Elevance, Genesis Energy, Great River Industries, Magnolia FracSand and VonDrehle.
-- Improvements to the port and existing railroad have been made.
-- The Port of Vidalia now under construction will accommodate the agriculture industry and handle dry bulk products.
According to Malone and Russ, partnership successes since February 2016 include expanded knowledge, improved relationship with Louisiana Economic Development and increased project activity.
Current ongoing projects include:
-- 12 active clients, $1.5 billion of potential investment and 1300 jobs.
-- A goal of 50 existing business and industry visits per year to Adams County and Concordia Parish businesses.
-- Six entrepreneurship academies completed, creating 45 new small businesses in the region. Upon completion, an academy will be held at the Vidalia Technology Center.
-- ACT Certified WorkReady Community Initiative-a partnership of Alcorn State University, Concordia Economic Development, and Natchez, Inc.
-- Retail development.
Marketing and communications development include:
-- Client development visits with state EDAs and site selectors.
-- Active presence on a variety of social media platforms to showcase successes and programs.
-- Electronic newsletter sent twice a year.
-- Developing a consistent way of packaging information for projects and marketing sites to potential companies.
-- Showcasing available spaces with the annual event "The Possibilities Tour: Turning Deserted Spaces into Dynamic Places."
Next steps include increased participation from the private sector, improved relationships from local governments, expanding service territory into Concordia Parish and to grow into a successful regional partnership.
Reported by: Stanley Nelson, Concordia Sentinel