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Alliance pulling together Noxubee County’s development resources

In mid-September, Noxubee County unveiled the creation of a new economic development organization and appointed an executive director. However, while both the Noxubee County Economic and Community Development Alliance and its executive director, Brian Wilson, are technically new, the organization is the melding of older groups, and Wilson is a native of the area with experience in local development efforts.

Alliance chairman and BankFirst president Bill Brown says, “The Alliance is an unprecedented public-private partnership dedicated to promoting economic and community development. Business sector experience combined with leadership from our county and cities is a recipe for success.”

Old and new

The Noxubee County Economic and Community Development Alliance is focused on economic and community development and tourism, and assumes the role of the Economic Development Authority, which was discontinued three years ago, and the Chamber of Commerce.

The Alliance is organized as a 501(c)6 non-profit organization made up of representatives from the county, municipalities, Chamber of Commerce and individual and corporate members.

The Chamber board of directors voted unanimously to merge into the new Alliance. Chamber duties such as the Dancing Rabbit Festival and Salute to Industry will continue under the Alliance.

The inaugural board consists of: Brown; Noxubee County Board of Supervisors president William “Boo” Oliver; Macon Mayor Bob Boykin; Brooksville Mayor Tammie Holmes; Chamber of Commerce president Charlie Perkins Jr.; and, District 5 supervisor Bruce Brooks.

The inaugural officers are Brown (chairman), Oliver (vice chairman) and Perkins (secretary-treasurer). The Alliance also appointed Marti Kauffman as its executive secretary. Kauffman was serving as executive secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and will continue that role with the Alliance.

The Alliance named Wilson as the first executive director of the organization. He is excited about the opportunities the county affords.

“Noxubee is on a roll right now with the largest economic development project in our history,” Wilson says. “For the last three years, we have been laying the ground work to take advantage of the explosive growth in the Golden Triangle under (Gov. Haley Barbour) and our congressional delegation. Our efforts have already paid off, and the future looks bright.”

Hometown guy

Wilson has had a lifetime to develop his appreciation for Noxubee County. He grew up in Macon, leaving there to earn degrees in history and political science from the University of Mississippi. He began graduate work in public policy at Mississippi State University, but his studies were interrupted when he was hired by Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) while interning for Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.)

“Throughout my career in D.C., I kept noticing that large and wealthy cities, counties and other constituents could afford professional planning departments, financial experts and lobbyists to help them achieve their goals. Unfortunately, the smaller or more rural areas without those financial means always seemed to be left behind through no fault of their own.

“I spent a lot of my free time in D.C. working with my home area, Noxubee County, on some of their projects, and we were very successful. I learned that these rural areas can be just as successful as the larger ones as long as they have access to the experience and advice.”

After more than five years working for Lott, Wilson decided to return to home and family. Taking lessons learned, he established a business that represented smaller counties, cities and other groups at an affordable cost. Over its first three years, Wilson says the small firm has been very successful.

Noxubee County was his firm’s first client. He and others quietly surveyed other areas throughout the South that had been successful in community, economic and tourism development. They received assistance from a number of groups and individuals, including Dr. Jack Russell of Virginia, formerly with the Appalachian Regional Commission and made available to the county through a grant.

Wilson and Russell spent a year leading a comprehensive planning effort known as Noxubee Renaissance. The new Alliance is a direct result of this effort.

“The old method of economic development by government alone went the way of the horse and buggy,” Wilson says. “Economic development in today’s economy requires a healthy blending of business world experience along with political leadership. Community development leads to economic development, so it makes sense to have all of these leaders at the same table working for the future. The Alliance is an effort to take Noxubee’s financial and human resources and use them in the most efficient and effective manner.”

Wilson points to a number of assets the county has. Benefits include Go Zone tax incentives, affordable Tennessee Valley Authority-generated power, Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, major rail service and four-lane highway access.

Recent successes include a minimum of 400 new jobs at Koch Foods and the saving of 80 jobs after the closure of Boral Bricks. Peco Foods is looking to expand its operations in the county, and $100,000 was secured recently to establish a revolving loan program for small businesses.

Wilson adds, “(Noxubee County) offers scenic natural beauty and a rich history along with a slower and more enjoyable pace of life. It’s very affordable to live there compared to most other areas, and it lies within the 30-minute national average for commuters to a wide variety of jobs and industries in the ever-expanding Golden Triangle area.

“In many ways, Noxubee County is similar to southern Madison County only a couple of decades ago. Noxubee has many natural assets, but they were the best kept secret in the South. So, we needed a game plan to take advantage of all this, and then tell the world about it.”

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

About Wally Northway

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