Southern lawmakers push regional cooperation

Published 9:00 pm Friday, February 17, 2012

Brookhaven state Sen. Sally Doty is amonglawmakers pushing for greater cooperation among Mississippi’ssouthern region in the pursuit of increased economicdevelopment.

    Doty, of District 39, and other southern region legislators metwith Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves Wednesday to discusstheir goals.

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    At Doty’s request, Lincoln County supervisors at their Feb. 6meeting adopted a resolution supporting greater economicdevelopment in the region. All of the state’s 22 southernmostcounties have now adopted the resolution at their legislators’prompting, Doty said.

    Doty credited fellow freshman Sen. John Polk from Hattiesburg asthe driving force behind a coalition of southern counties.

    The resolution asks Bryant and other state authorities to “exercisefairness and parity for the South Mississippi region regardingeconomic development opportunities and infrastructureimprovements.”

    Doty said large economic development projects undertaken by theMississippi Development Authority have tended to land in northMississippi. Such projects have included the Toyota plant near BlueSprings.

    Doty said the meeting with Bryant and Reeves went very well and thetwo men seemed receptive to the region’s goals. However, no clearplans or initiatives have been adopted regarding regional economicdevelopment.

    “We don’t have our next step really planned out,” Doty said.

    Doty believes the first byproduct of the resolution and the meetingwill be a greater sense of unity and cooperation among the 22counties in question. She’s confident that unity will eventuallyyield results.

    “I have no doubt that something beneficial will come,” Doty said.”Something beneficial always comes when you have morecooperation.”

    Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield echoed the significance of regionalcooperation.

    “There’s definitely strength in numbers,” Brumfield said.

    Development projects should be viewed as a regional benefit, not asource of competition for the southern counties, Doty said.

    “What is good for the Gulf Coast is good for Brookhaven,” Dotysaid.

    The resolution highlights the potential in the region, includingits educational opportunities such as the University of SouthernMississippi, William Carey University and five community colleges.It also touts the area’s transportation infrastructure and growthpotential.

    Though no specific development plans exists, Doty said theincreasing prevalence of biofuels could make that industry animportant one for the region.

    Brumfield said leaders must keep in mind that the bar has beenraised in the pursuit of attracting industries.

    “Having extra acreage in the county that could be developed doesn’tcut it any more,” Brumfield said. “That acreage has to be developedand ready to go.”