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We are working to keep economy open, strong

The year 2020. It’s been a year like none other.

Just a few months ago, when we were in the depths of a national quarantine, and the closing of our world’s economy, it felt like normalcy would never return. Throw in a mixture of violence, political unrest and a polarizing national election, and many would say they are glad to see 2020 come to an end.

But let’s not forget to celebrate the victories. Natchez — in the midst of this pandemic-ridden year, we have bragging rights. Even as I write this article, our economy is open and strong. Local restaurants, shops and other small businesses that many counted as permanent casualties are now greeting customers again — many in record numbers.

Look around Natchez and you will see signs of hope — vacant buildings coming to life again with new business and activity. Loss Prevention Services is busy readying the old Regions Bank Building for new life — and 200 new jobs. One major tourist destination, Dunleith, closed for the past two years, is in the final phase of a million dollar renovation and will be reopening in January — another 60 jobs are on the way there.

A local realtor just reported to me this week that the inventory of available real estate is down by a third since July. This is one of the healthiest economic indicators I know of, unheard of during pandemic times.

Natchez — we have reason to celebrate! But now more than ever we have got to keep our economy open and strong. We have come too far to go backwards now.

All across America, the news of economies beginning to close again is frightening. Washington State and California have already announced their intentions to close. This cannot happen here. And in Natchez, it will not happen under my watch. We as a community, the city and county working together, must do whatever it takes to keep our Natchez Renewal moving forward.

The virus has proven deadly, but not just in terms of the cost to human life. Let’s consider the number of businesses that it has killed… the number of families, marriages, homes, schools and churches now affected… the countless Americans who are now facing unemployment, poverty, foreclosure and eviction. Let’s consider the loss of livelihoods, life savings, retirement accounts… and in many parts of our country the loss of hope itself.

Thank goodness this is not happening in Natchez. And let us as a community do all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen.

As we approach the Christmas season, let us not forget that this is the season of hope and renewal, a time of love and peace. It is also a season for being kind, and treating one another as we ourselves would like to be treated.

If you don’t like wearing the mask, take comfort — none of us do. But let us not lose sight of the bigger picture. We are blessed beyond measure in Natchez. Let’s do all we can to keep it that way.

Do the right thing. Do the smart thing. And let’s keep Natchez open.

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.

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