JACKSON — At a July 13 retreat at the Entergy Lodge on Northside Drive, city officials, businesspeople and members of various organizations got together to form the annual Economic Strategic Plan (ESP) for the Capital City.
“It will take on a comprehensive look and identify what our key results are, which comprise an effort to increase the tax base so that the current services are maintained and enhanced so we can build on pro-business development and downtown as well as the revitalization of the Farish Street Historic District are going to be uppermost on that agenda,” said Harold Lathon, director of economic development for the City of Jackson. “Mayor (Harvey) Johnson’s personal attitude focuses that all citizens have equal opportunities to do business with the city.”
Some of the things Jackson’s economic development office is looking at include business development, real estate development, equal business opportunity for minorities and females, downtown redevelopment, industrial development and expansion, neighborhood and commercial development, technology research and development, service sector and workforce development, international development and health care development.
And, Lathon added, “Probably the number one driving factor for all of this is public safety.”
Jackson has embarked on a couple of different programs since Johnson first took office in 1997. One such program is the Business Visitation Program, which is geared toward business retention, recruitment and revitalization. It is designed to help develop programs to retain existing businesses.
“You’re not going to be successful to do these things if you’re not paying attention to those (businesses and industries that are) already here,” Lathon said. “We’ve found that existing businesses are major contributors to the community’s economy and tax base. They turn out to be some of our best ambassadors to recruit new businesses to the community.”
As part of the Business Visitation Program, individuals from the economic educational community, such as students, instructors and other business leaders will visit targeted business and industry segments. Then those team members will help the business to fill out a survey so that the city can find ways to better help business and industry.
There are five major objectives with the Business Visitation Program. The first objective is to demonstrate the community’s pro-business attitude and appreciation of the firm’s contribution. The second is to aid in solving local problems or help businesses work in local government, thus cutting the cost of doing business. The third of the five objectives of the program is to help business and industry use state and federal programs, especially those that improve the efficiency of the program, in either planning or marketing.
Finally, the fourth and fifth objectives deal with developing a database for economic and strategic planning, and to establish an early warning system for plant closures.
The Strategic Alliance Program is in its third year, and it brings businesses and other organizations together to discuss what outcomes are needed so that business and industry may succeed in Jackson.
“That just about rounds out Johnson’s vision for the City of Jackson, which has a value added application for Jackson to ensure the citizens understand that the mayor’s focus is on action to implement the common shared vision,” Lathon said. “This is grounded in the policy of the realities that reflect; what is possible given the available resources and what can be achieved credibly within the visionary environment that doesn’t encourage citizens to abandon dreams.
“However, it does implicate that in order to be highly successful we must have an honest interest in the vision of others in order for the larger vision to evolve into positive fruition.”
The overall mission of Lathon’s office is to provide administrative support and to contribute to the City of Jackson efforts to formulate an economic strategic plan that will focus on creating and maintaining a safe employee/employer friendly pro-business environment. Such an environment will enhance business recruitment, retention and expansion efforts, Lathon said.
The City of Jackson should be in a position to release the results of the ESP sometime soon.
“The City of Jackson’s basic philosophy is entrenched in Mayor Harvey Johnson’s vision that all citizens should be able to enjoy a good quality of life through the direct and indirect economic performance based outcomes linked to concise strategies embedded in the urban agenda,” Lathon said.
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.