Community can capitalize on regional opportunities

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, July 15, 2012

When efforts prove less than fruitful at home, a regional approach represents the next best option for pursuing economic development opportunities.

     With local economic conditions continuing to hold their own, Lincoln County could be well positioned to capitalize on several regional activities under way in Southwest Mississippi.

     For some months now, much attention has been focused on an expected oil exploration boom in the areas around Wilkinson and Amite counties. Called the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale project, the oil field, which sits 15,000 feet below the southern part of Southwest Mississippi, is projected to contain some 7 billion barrels of oil.

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     If explorers opt to go after the oil – and conditions are favorable that they will – doing so will take manpower.

     That manpower will require places for company officials and workers to reside and office space for leaders. And of course, some of that manpower requirement could result in jobs for people from this community.

     Locations farther south could be the epicenter for oil-related activities, but local officials believe Brookhaven and Lincoln County could still benefit as a result of those needing living or operational space. This community’s closer proximity to metro areas may also be seen as appealing.

     The oil-related activities could present many opportunities and some challenges for this area. Local leaders are continuing to monitor activities south of us to see where and how this community can capitalize.

     In another oil industry-related matter, Genesis Energy announced Monday it will expand its operations at the Port of Natchez and add 20 new jobs to handle the transportation of diluted bitumen mined from Canadian oil sands.

While the direct benefits here might be limited, the energy company’s decision to use an area railroad line to Natchez can still be seen as positive for this community.

     The important thing for this area, as local leaders pointed out, is that the move will keep the line between Brookhaven and Natchez in operation. There had been some concern in recent years that the line could be abandoned.

     Now, however, the “route to the river” will be maintained. And having rail access to a river port will be another check in the positive column for Brookhaven when businesses and industries consider where to locate.

     Furthermore, a sawmill considering locating in Franklin County may represent opportunities for neighboring Lincoln County. Several Franklin County residents heard about the project during a Thursday night meeting in Meadville.

     How the project could help locally lies in the potential for Lincoln Countians filling jobs at the mill. Trees grown on Lincoln County soil could find their way to the mill, and revenue from those sales could find its way back home to benefit the local economy.

     From the oil project to the sawmill, much remains speculation at this point. However, the chances appear good for local opportunities in association with regional developments.