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Natchez is getting ready for its at bat

Amazing things are happening in Natchez. Most of them stem from the growing self-awareness that if the community doesn’t work together, the future will be far less bright.

Evidence of our community’s improving focus is all around us. Not surprisingly most of the progress comes as a result of extremely simple, but sometimes complex, acts — talking and listening to one another.

Emphasizing communication and openness has been almost a mantra of this newspaper for years.

Just two years ago, a lack of communication led to the destruction of Adams County’s economic development authority.

At times early in the process the issue was handled horribly, including one supervisor saying effectively, “We can do the EDA.”

Eventually, the business community, led by the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce, brought together business leaders and elected officials from the community to talk and listen to all concerns.

That communication led to something that, in the end, was a better EDA structure than we had before.

Perhaps the gut-check, what-are-we-going-to-do-now moment came when business leaders saw a projection of population trends for the county at a meeting about economic development. The numbers suggested a possible loss of approximately 3,000 county residents between 2009 and 2014.

Eyes opened quickly and the room got quiet.

What business would not suffer if that population trend became a reality?

No one knows the future, obviously, but the projections made things crystal clear: Something had to be done or we’re all going to suffer in the future.

Flash forward two years and Natchez Inc. is up and running, a partnership between public entities and the private business community. So far, at least, the communication seems to be going well between the various groups funding the deal, though perhaps more general information could be shared with the community as a whole.

Keeping taxpayers in the loop can be done without giving away confidential information and without falsely raising hopes that every at bat will result in a home run.

Evidence that communication and togetherness has improved can be seen even failed efforts.

For example, although attempts to keep Bad Boy Buggies’ manufacturing facility here ultimately proved unsuccessful, the efforts to save them were apparently rapid, Herculean and unanimous.

Apparently when Natchez Inc. approached the county supervisors to seek their help in offering incentives to EZ-Go, the new owner of Bad Boy Buggies, the vote was unanimously in favor of helping.

Communication is the key.

Today, Natchez Inc. is courting several business prospects. Perhaps one of them will be a hit.

Whatever the result, the community needs to stay positive and realize that even the most successful economic development efforts don’t make contact with the ball at every at bat.

However, our community is getting suited up, practicing its swing and is stepping up to the plate again after years of mostly sitting on the bench.

A few hits are definitely in our community’s future.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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