By REGINA BUTLER
PONTOTOC–Mississippi's “economic evangelist” encouraged a group of Pontotoc county business and civic leaders last night to find””what they were best at and keep on doing it.”
“I have never seen a tidy community that did not do well,” said Leland Speed, executive director for the Mississippi Development Authority.
Hoping for a revival of economic activity in small Mississippi communities, Speed told the crowd “You have already done the hard part,” referring to the high academic ratings of Pontotoc City and County Schools.
Speed told a group of more than 100 residents that many counties would “eat their heart out to have what you do.”
The director was in Pontotoc to help unveil Pontotoc's “Discovery Project,” which is the newest effort from the Pontotoc County Chamber of Commerce in helping to develop the economic base.
Speed said when he read that Pontotoc was one of only 397 communities nationwide that had a high quality of life, it intrigued him.
“You don't have a university or a casino. The thing you have going for you is an educational system. You have done the hard part,” he said.
“Education is the hardest thing to accomplish. Many communities sigh when you bring up that word, and yet, you have accomplished that.”
Speed encouraged the community to fix up the court square “so nice people will talk about it.”
He pointed to several communities that are doing well because of their innovations in the town, like Oxford and Columbus.
“People like to live in walking towns. They like to get out and walk their dog at night.”
Speed said that small details really count when it comes to making a town attractive.
“Pay attention to details. People usually choke on the last one percent,” of what it takes to attract new residents.
“If you folks will buy into the idea that you want to make Pontotoc the most tidy place … you make Pontotoc the most attractive community you are capable of, because if it is not tidy people will keep on driving until they find a community that is tidy,” he said.
Speed said the method to succeed was very simple.
“Come up with a strategy to be your best. Keep thinking creatively and have the energy to follow through.”