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Meridian can build excitement, enthusiasm

By Staff
Sept. 5, 2001
If you've had a chance to look at the recently published EMBDC Annual Report you know things really are looking up in Lauderdale County.
Sometimes it takes a "year in review" type look at things to make one realize just how much we've accomplished in the last year. From the I-20/59 Industrial Park Project to the Southern Arts and Entertainment victory the folks at the BDC have quietly gone about the business of placing Meridian and Lauderdale County first in the minds of people from Jackson to Washington, DC.
Word on the street is that a deal with a supplier for the Nissan plant is in the works and it's just a matter of time before an announcement is made that will bring much needed manufacturing jobs to Meridian. These relationships they are forging will pay dividends.
In common
I recently visited one of our sister papers, The Enid News and Eagle in Enid, Okla. Situated about the same distance from Oklahoma City as we are from Jackson, Enid and Meridian have a lot in common. We have roughly the same population, both have an air base nearby, and our papers are about the same size.
One thing the News and Eagle has that we don't is a marketing arm of the newspaper. Last year that marketing group, independent of the newspaper,
generated more than $400,000 in revenue from promotions within the community. They did booklets and programs for over a dozen festivals, provided game day programs for the minor league basketball team in town, and sponsored concerts at their new 7,000 seat auditorium.
A local businessman recently donated $1 million to build a beautiful baseball stadium downtown and we were fortunate enough to walk over in time to watch the end of the Regional Babe Ruth League Championships. We walked in just as the Mississippi team, from West Point, was finishing its game. The marketing folks at the local newspaper put that together as well.
As we talked about the possibilities of doing the same thing in Meridian, they were amazed that we didn't have the infrastructure or facilities to do the kind of things they do. They take for granted that when they want to put on an event they can choose from the auditorium, the convention center, the Agricultural Pavilion that seats more than 4,000 people or even the Masonic Hall.
While they were feeling sorry for us and our lack of venues, I was getting more and more excited about the possibilities. I kept thinking about the old joke about two shoe salesmen who were sent to Africa to sell shoes. One wires back to the U.S., "Send me a plane ticket home no one here wears shoes." The other, more visionary salesman wires back, "Send more shoes!!"
Leaders needed
Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of the people of Enid, made me appreciate the fundamental challenges we face in Meridian. One of the things I always hear people say is, "There's nothing to do in Meridian." In Enid, people said, "There's always something to do in Enid."
There is an enthusiasm and spirit of ownership in the town. And we can have the same thing here as well. Meridian and Lauderdale County are full of great people, some of the finest people I've ever met. But we need to nurture good leaders. We need leaders that people trust and that people will follow. Many of those good folks are emerging, but we need to encourage others with the leadership skills necessary to come forward and to make a difference.
We need more courage and less rhetoric, more humility and less politics. And then, and only then, can we realize the full potential of our community.
Wade Jones and the people at the EMBDC are a very positive start. They are committed and focused. The board is solid and, for the most part, filled with people who are unselfish and dedicated to making this community a better place to live.
I encourage everyone to look closely at the steady progress they are making. This is not your father's EMBDC … it's a new beginning.
Paul Barrett is publisher of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3202.