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Why not Meridian?': East Mississippi not high on state development A' list

By Staff
Dec. 17, 2000
State economic development officials launch a new tour tomorrow inviting locals to "celebrate the success" and "share the credit" for Nissan and an improved version of Mississippi's industry recruitment incentives.
The tour of five cities over three days this week promises "some nuts and bolts  ways that your part of the state can benefit from these opportunities," according to a notice distributed by the Mississippi Economic Council.
Not in Meridian
Neither Meridian nor any city in east Mississippi are on the "A" list of places to be visited by J.C. Burns, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, and members of his staff.
The co-called MDA "Progress Tour" will tell local business and community leaders how to benefit from the Advantage Mississippi Initiative, the state's new economic development incentive plan adopted by the Legislature in a special session last August. Components of the plan are credited with helping land the $930 million Nissan manufacturing plant in Madison County.
MDA's latest tour is said to also include special incentives for tourism development under HB 1301, an as-yet unused law designed to attract large family-friendly tourism facilities. And, it will describe how suppliers may explore new business opportunities with Nissan.
Messenger
Interestingly, MEC president Blake Wilson said last week his group is "only the messenger" in getting word out on MDA's new tour, which includes stops in McComb and Gulfport tomorrow, Jackson on Wednesday and Tupelo and Cleveland on Thursday. Wilson and MEC were key partners in planning and carrying out the earlier visits, dubbed the "Partnership Tour," which ran February-March.
In a telephone conversation last week, Burns said MDA needed to "get out and tell as many people as we can about" the Advantage Mississippi Initiative and the schedule was the "best we could do" at the present time.
It is possible, he said, that Meridian and other parts of east Mississippi  the home territory of Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck  may get a visit at a later date, probably some time next year.
Opportunities
Burns, who said he has visited Meridian himself four times this year, said opportunities exist for east Mississippi businesses particularly automotive suppliers to connect with Nissan.
Suppliers operating out of this area could find business partners to the east such as Mercedes and Honda in Alabama and the west Nissan in Madison linked with an excellent network of highways, rail and air transportation facilities.
The Meridian area could even become something of a "business model," Burns said, because of the "vendor tooling" provision of the new economic development law. For example, a Nissan supplier could put its own equipment in the Nissan plant without having to pay ad valorem taxes on the equipment.
Special efforts
Local economic development officials have made special efforts to get noticed by MDA, the state agency responsible for administering the new law. And, 10 local businessmen put up $10,000 each this summer to help fund the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development, a private sector organization co-chaired by Musgrove and Dwight Evans, president of Mississippi Power.
They clearly are hoping with good reason  to put Meridian back on the economic development map and deserve inclusion in MDA's latest tour just on the chance that some meaningful information may be obtained in what looks largely like a feel-good public relations venture.
It all sounds good. We just won't hear it here this week.
But cheer up, Meridian is right there with southeast Mississippi, southwest Mississippi and the north Delta  maybe for next year.
In response to the MEC notice, which gave this week's schedule of visits, one local economic development official posed the question: "Why not Meridian????"
Good question, inadequate answers.
Buddy Bynum is editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at bbynum@themeridianstar.com.

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