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Region can move forward with all working together

Comments made during last Tuesday’s meeting on a comprehensiveplan for Brookhaven provide insight into how to improve theeconomic lot of not only the city but other parts of SouthwestMississippi as well.

“When you look at this community it’s important to understandthe region as a whole is not doing as well as the rest ofMississippi. This is not just about getting another business in theindustrial park, but how to link the strengths of the region,” saidSue Chamberlain, a representative and Slaughter and Associates,which is assisting city leaders in planning needs.

As part of the comprehensive planning discussion, Brookhavenleaders are looking at community strengths on which they can buildand at areas of weakness that may need to be addressed.

Positives include high quality educational and medical offeringsand strong sales tax collections. Opportunities for intellectualstimulation through cultural richness and physical location wereamong other positive attributes that were identified.

Areas in need of attention included further efforts tocapitalize on retail offerings, improving “walkability” factors andfinding new ways to attract younger residents to the community.Apartments like those being developed downtown was one ideamentioned for attracting those from younger generation.

While the comprehensive plan discussion is needed, and must becarried out with the attention of future administrations, betteringeconomic opportunities for all of Southwest Mississippi will takeinvolvement by all area communities through a regional approach. AsChamberlain said, Southwest Mississippi is simply not faring aswell economically as other parts of the state.

Successful communities elsewhere in Mississippi have realizedthe importance of working together. That realization has helpedthem land some major industries, as well as some other lesssignificant – but still important – businesses.

Public and private leaders from Southwest Mississippicommunities are making a new attempt at a regional cooperative thatthey are hopeful will land an industry in this area. Theirambitious plan calls for a new industry to locate somewhere in the10-county area within the next 18 months.

Success will not result from merely by one or two cities orcommunities buying into the plan, but by all citizens acrossSouthwest Mississippi feeling as if they have an active and vestedinterest in the fulfillment of the efforts.

A familiar phrase contends that “a rising tide raises allships.”

Southwest Mississippi may not be feeling the nourishing watersof economic development as much as the rest of the state. But allcommunities doing their best to improve their areas, while alsoworking with their regional neighbors, offers the opportunities toopen the floodgates of success for future generations.