Building a solid foundation for growth
July 27, 2001
Local economic development officials are working on a fundamental change in the way this community, its institutions, indeed, its people, look at themselves. The task is huge and will likely take considerable cooperative effort by all parties. But the cause of building a solid foundation on which future economic development activities can be based is well worth the effort.
The Meridian Star continues to believe East Mississippi stands to benefit from ancillary business operations associated with the $930 million Nissan plant in Madison County. Eventually, the plant and associated industries are expected to create more than 30,000 jobs in Mississippi. There is no reason why East Mississippi shouldn't share in the growth.
The opportunity to connect through a transportation corridor or automotive technology corridor is real. Surely, Meridian's central location on major interstate highways between Nissan in Canton and Mercedes in Alabama is a tangible benefit to companies wanting to do business with either.
In a refreshing new approach, Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corp., is taking the community's pulse on developing a strategic plan for how our area should pursue economic development. The idea of including all segments of the community in this scope of work, as he is doing, is essential to its success. Doing more of EMBDC's business in public is also helpful.
The pieces of what he described as a giant puzzle cannot be completed without structure and vision.
Part of the process involves a joint meeting with the EMBDC board of directors, mayors and other city officials from Meridian and Marion, and the president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 7.
At this strategic planning session, such EMBDC issues as employees and organization, membership needs, government and public affairs, community development and economic development will be discussed.
A labor force survey will help fill in the information gap, giving developers another good tool.
While the opportunities associated with Nissan are clearly worth pursuing, Jones has recognized that existing businesses and industry will create most of the new jobs in this area. For that reason, finding new ways to retain existing jobs and help local businesses grow is also important.
Formal recognition of the role played by education in economic development is also worth the effort.
A general feeling is beginning to emerge that, under Jones' leadership and with more cooperation among the various political and community resources, East Mississippi can adopt a new position, can-do attitude and make progress toward real economic security.