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Economic development emphasized in search for new EMBDC leader

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Dec. 24, 2000
With an interim president and solid staff in place, the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation will conduct a diligent yet unhurried search for a permanent leader, according to chairman Glen Deweese.
Longtime Meridian business leader George Myers assumed part-time duties as head of EMBDC after former president Slater Barr's departure in November. Deweese told The Meridian Star editorial board Myers' experience will help keep EMBDC on track during the search process.
But, in order to capitalize on supplier connections to Nissan, which is building a $930 million manufacturing plant in Madison County, and other major opportunities, Deweese said the EMBDC needs a full-time professional with "know how and credibility."
Deweese said he asked EMBDC board members and in an important new effort at reaching out into the community other leaders for recommendations on who should be on the search committee to find a new president.
With changes expected in and around Meridian over the next few years, Deweese hopes the area can attract an experienced economic developer with solid credentials.
Deweese said the board doesn't want to hurry the interview and selection process, but neither does it want to waste time.
When someone is found Deweese said the organization needs to be ready to pay them comparatively with what other developers make in the state.
And once a replacement for Barr is found, Deweese said there will be no question who will have the responsibility for running both EMBDC and the area's economic development efforts.
Deweese said for the first time in many years, he sees a bright future for Meridian and Lauderdale County.
He said ongoing and future projects have given him a very positive outlook on the future. With Nissan preparing to open its new plant, the selection of Meridian as the site for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center, and the restoration of The Grand Opera House, the former state senator believes he has good reason to be optimistic.
He said compared to other established economically developed areas of the state, Meridian has more going for it.
Deweese said he thinks the area is making headway to get additional support from state leaders in Jackson made evident by selection of Meridian as the site for the arts and entertainment center.
Such attention to Meridian will be evident, Deweese said, when Mississippi Development Authority executive director J.C. Burns travels to town on January 9 for the EMBDC's Business Before Hours Breakfast, and when Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck returns to Meridian on Feb. 19 for a session on small business and entrepreneurship. Deweese and other EMBDC leaders ate breakfast with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove when he visited tornado-stricken Lauderdale County last Monday.
Although some speculation has already been raised that funding for the arts center could be problematic, Deweese said he believes it will become a reality  albeit with a major shot of private funding.
Nissan's plant is perhaps the best thing to happen to the state, Deweese said, and, despite predictions of a sluggish economy in coming years, he believes Nissan will do well when the first vehicles roll off the assembly line in 2003.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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