Craft: Time to Revisit Natchez Inc.’s Approach – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

NATCHEZ – The mayor of Vidalia, Buz Craft, is hoping that the town of Vidalia can continue to be part of Natchez Inc.’s economic development effort, but doing so will require changing its contract.

Vidalia joined Natchez Inc. in 2016. Her five-year contract was written specifically to welcome Heather Malone, who was deputy director of Natchez Inc. and represented the economic development interests of Vidalia and Concordia Parish, Craft said. He is making arrangements to terminate Vidalia’s contract with Natchez Inc. as it currently exists.

Craft said that after a recent Vidalia Town Board meeting, his intentions regarding economic development and Natchez Inc. were distorted in the media.

“Basically what the media has reported is that the mayor is questioning the responsibility of Natchez Inc., and that’s not true,” Craft said.

“Heather is gone. This contract is no longer valid because it was specific to Heather. He includes details of her salary and how Vidalia would be reimbursed for her salary on the $ 100,000 she promised Natchez Inc. and he talks about Heather being under the full supervision of Chandler Russ (executive director of Natchez Inc .).

“Heather being a Louisiana resident her entire life, that relationship basically worked. Not only has she done a lot of economic development, but she has also done community development, which is very important to me, ”said Craft.

Based on Craft’s interpretation of a letter sent to him and the Vidalia Aldermen’s Council on September 12, he said Russ wanted to be the “one person to choose Heather’s replacement.” If they pick someone with all Mississippi roots and experience, I’m not sure we would get our money’s worth, ”he said.

Craft also said he was concerned about what the Louisiana Department of Economic Development thought about his economic development contract with Natchez and Adams County and wanted information from that agency before entering into a new contract with Natchez Inc.

“I want to know if the Louisiana economic development group with the State of Louisiana has a problem calling a Mississippi economic development group to give it their perspective,” he said. ” Do not mistake yourself. I am for a regional approach. I am for jobs. But I’m sure they don’t want to lose a prospect to Mississippi.

Craft said he was due to meet with Louisiana economic development officials next week.

“I want to know if they know of any other such agreements with border towns, like maybe Lake Charles and Texas. What are the logistics and dynamics? I want their opinion on this. I want to make sure we have the blessing of the Louisiana Economic Development Group. And I have to meet with Concordia Parish Economic Development and see what they want to do in the future, ”Craft said.

“It’s going to take a few months to digest and clear a clear path for what’s best for both sides of the river. We are delighted with Natchez’s success with businesses and its real estate market, and I say so sincerely. But at the end of the day, we want an opportunity for Vidalia. “

Craft praised the work of Natchez Inc. in helping bring Vidalia Denim and Syrah Technologies to Vidalia. However, he said he was unaware with Natchez Inc. about sharing information and was not asked to be at the table to help sell Vidalia.

“I think I can be effective in selling Vidalia (and Concordia Parish) to potential employers. We have the hydroelectric power station. I get calls from commercial companies asking if they can get these electricity discounts. When they find out they could get half of their electric payments back, I can guarantee they will hit the tires on Vidalia. I want to be there to help sell it. We are a one stop shop for public services. The community offers a great quality of life. We have great housing opportunities, ”said Craft.

Russ confident the problems can be solved

Russ said Vidalia has benefited greatly from his partnership with Natchez Inc. and he is confident that a new contract can be made.

“I think we are in good shape. I think nothing is contentious. This is tricky in some areas where the mayor feels that the person hired should be a city employee rather than an employee of Natchez Inc. The relationship and partnership have been very beneficial to Vidalia during the six-year period with the recruitment of two major industries and millions of dollars of infrastructure. We just have to find the best way to move forward, ”said Russ.

He said that while working for Natchez Inc., Malone remained an employee of Vidalia due to her years of previous work for Vidalia and participation in her retirement system. Malone’s salary was deducted from the $ 100,000 paid to Vidalia under his Natchez Inc. contract. Basically he paid the difference to Natchez Inc.

He said he sent a letter to Craft and Vidalia city councilors providing Natchez Inc.’s history and asking for a new contract designed after one followed by other partners.

“We’re basically asking to come back to a clean slate and take the advice of all the other partners – the town of Natchez, Adams County and Natchez Now – and we hire the employee and run the services that we have agreed to. to supply. This way we have no problem with the actual management of the employee.

“In today’s professional economic development environment, we’re going to hire the best person we can hire to provide these services, whether they’re from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, or Wyoming. We want the best person to provide these services and we are confident that we will be able to find that person based on our reputation as an organization and our contacts within the economic development industry, ”said Russ .

He said the employee hired to replace Malone would focus on Louisiana’s economic development.

“The majority of their time and effort would be spent in Louisiana, but they would not be dedicated to Louisiana only. They would be assigned to the region. Heather worked on projects in Mississippi and I worked on projects in Louisiana, depending on the weather and who was best suited to fill that role. Where we’re lacking right now is providing these services to Louisiana, ”said Russ.

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