County leaders seek unity through economic development
Published 7:00 am Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Elected officials and community members of Pearl River County gathered Monday to discuss the creation of a countywide economic development organization.
Pearl River County Board of Supervisors President Sandy Kane Smith, Board Vice President Hudson Holliday and District II Supervisor Malcolm Perry have worked with chamber of commerce leaders Nuria Arias and Brenda Wells on the project.
All five members of the Board of Supervisors were in attendance Monday, as well as Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero, Poplarville Alderman Byron Wells, Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison and representatives from the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District, the Mississippi Development Authority and Mississippi Power.
“You’ve got the MDA’s commitment,” Project Manager Ellen Bourdeaux said.
The group met at the Italian Grill and Pizzeria in Picayune to speak about their goals for the economic development organization.
“We have to keep our foot on the gas pedal,” Smith said.
The idea came about after county leaders participated in the MDA Ambassadors Program last year, also receiving a $5,000 grant to begin the organization process.
“Geographically, we’re ready to explode,” Holliday said. “We need to create the kind of environment people are looking for in a place to live.”
Uniting the county was a theme repeated by many in attendance.
Bryon Hill, a Board member of the Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce, said the economic development organization is a great opportunity to bring the cities together.
“When I first started campaigning, I learned real quick that there was a line drawn in the sand,” Perry said, calling for continued progress in uniting the two cities.
“Unity between communities is so important to attract companies,” Bourdeaux said.
Wells said in order for the organization to be successful, the county has to come together “as one unit…getting someone appointed to fill the position” of a full-time economic development director.
“You can take any negative experience if you can find the positive…it took all of that to bring us to this point,” Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nuria Aria said.
SMPDD is developing the bylaws of the organization, which are nearing completion, Senior Project Manager Lindsay Ward said.
“SMPDD has created the skeleton, but how do we add that flesh?” Arias said.
District I Supervisor Donald Hart said spurring job growth is one of his top priorities.
“We don’t want our young people to grow up and get jobs outside of Pearl River County,” Hart said.
“We can’t close the door on anything.”
District IV Supervisor Farron Moeller said access to water is one of the most important benefits of building industry in Pearl River County, while other areas have to worry about building costly wells.
“We have to make sure we stay directly involved in this organization,” Pinero said.
City of Picayune Special Projects Manager Christy Goss spoke about the need to brand the county as, “One Picayune, One Poplarville, One Pearl River County” as a way to highlight the uniqueness of the area.
The group planned to make presentations to the Picayune City Council and the Poplarville Board of Aldermen in the near future, as well as private organizations like the Rotary Club of Picayune and Picayune Lion’s Club.