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$3M earmarked for recruitment, retention, projects

Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership kicking off campaign

The MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce has a new name — the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership (GJCP) — and is preparing to kick off an ambitious fundraising campaign, with the money earmarked for business expansion/job retention, recruiting new business and supporting area projects.

“We had been discussing the name change for some time,” said Duane O’Neill, president and CEO of the GJCP. “MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce was a good name, and we were proud of who we were, but we sort of outgrew it, and we didn’t want to limit who we are today.”

Reaching out

O’Neill pointed out that the economic development arm of his organization just a few years ago worked in a mere three counties (Hinds, Madison and Rankin), and the federal government’s connotation of the Greater Jackson metropolitan statistical area (MSA) generally mirrored the region in which the economic development group worked. But the economic development division’s area grew to five counties, and now stands at eight — Attala, Copiah, Hinds, Leake, Madison, Rankin, Simpson and Warren — all well outside the official MSA boundaries.

So, the group, formerly known as the MetroJackson Economic Development Alliance, also has a new name — the Greater Jackson Alliance (GJA) — to reflect its growth outside of the federally-established Jackson MSA. However, the GJA’s mission remains the same, to facilitate economic development by working across lines of jurisdiction with economic development groups and others in communities throughout the eight-county territory.

It is all about regionalism, a concept that has gotten a lot of ink lately following the successful recruitment of Toyota to North Mississippi, an effort led by the efforts of the PUL Alliance. (“PUL” stands for Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties, which worked together on developing the Blue Spring megasite.) But O’Neill was quick to note that the GJCP also has seen success in landing an automaker utilizing a regional approach.

“The money that paid for the site Nissan stands on in Canton came through this organization,” he said. “MEDA identified the site, did the soil borings and other preliminary work. I applaud the folks in Northeast Mississippi, and am proud of the successful regional efforts we have had already seen here, too.”

Soliciting support

The GJCP did not jump into its plan of focusing on regional economic development efforts without doing its homework. The five-year plan to recruit new and expanding businesses and support area projects would cost money, and one of the main questions the GJCP needed answered was if it would receive the support of the communities in the eight-county region, and that included financial support.

The GJCP hired National Community Development Services (NCDS), an Atlanta-based business specializing in campaigns of all types, including those focused on economic development, which had worked with the GJCP multiple times in the 1990s. The NCDS conducted a feasibility study, the results of which were released last January and called “Report and Recommendations.”

NCDS’ report found the support would be there, and that the goal of raising $3 million was doable. With that, the GJCP voted to move forward on the six-month economic development fundraising campaign, which is titled “Horizons United,” and NCDS was retained to assist the GJCP with raising the investment dollars.

NCDS project manager Dennis Fuhrhop, said while the campaign’s goals are ambitious, he is confident that they will be met. “I’m excited, and I believe great things can happen. Economic development is competitive, and communities simply must have a plan in place. That’s exactly what the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership is doing.”

Return on investment

When NCDS and the GJCP approach communities for support, they will be armed with some attractive numbers. The GJCP is committing to bringing 15,000 new jobs to the region over the next five years. Fuhrhop said the total economic impact from this effort would be more than $510 million.

Of the $3 million, approximately one-half would go toward attracting new business to the area. A little more than 20% would go toward retention and expansion of existing business and industry, while 25% would be earmarked to support such projects as the LeFleurs Lake and the Jackson State University-Airport Parkway. The rest would be used to oversee the funds and give stakeholders updates on the group’s efforts.

Fuhrhop said the leaders of the fundraising drive were being pulled together at press time. The campaign is scheduled to conclude in September.

O’Neill said the GJCP’s and GJA’s territory may grow even more in the near future, noting that Warren County is a recent addition and both Attala and Leake counties are relatively new. He said his organization is looking to add two more counties in the next year or so, which would bring the territory to 10 counties.

“The next five years will be a critical period for the greater Jackson region,” O’Neill said. “We have the unique opportunity to decide the direction of our region and seize opportunities to grow our economy. We believe our region is well positioned to pursue economic growth better than ever before. To compete with other regions across the country and world, we must pool our resources and cooperate across jurisdictional borders.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.


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