CATEGORY: EDT Editorials
Amory’s civic and elected leadership formally joined forces this week to find a new direction for the city’s future. The partnership, which includes a strong regional element, has the challenging but certainly possible task of reversing recent losses in the Monroe County city’s economic base.
Amory’s primary task is to find new jobs to replace and exceed those that have been or will be lost by the closure of Red Kap’s plant and Simmons Furniture. About 1,000 jobs will have been eliminated when the closures are complete.
The longer-term task is to replace the lost jobs and then build toward a larger and even stronger manufacturing/business base. Amory holds in its hand significant assets with which to reach both the long- and short-term goals.
First, Amory’s economic history is strong and progressive. It successfully has made other transitions with changing economic times. Amory used to be a railroad town, but when the railroad business changed the city moved toward broadly diversifying its jobs base.
Manufacturing including furniture and apparel became mainstays. But Amory may be in the beginning of another major economic transition moving toward 21st-century jobs dramatically different from those lost late in 1995 and early this year.
Amory has formidable assets to use in its Economic Development Partnership:
– Public education enjoys enviable status as a mainstay of community interest and pride. Amory’s public school students form the core of a proven workforce, and the schools remain in the vanguard of preparing students for all kinds of jobs.
– Amory’s medical community and facilities make most other small cities of comparable size downright envious. Gilmore Memorial Hospital and the physicians who practice in Amory form what one economic development professional called a “unique” asset nationwide.
– Civic leadership responded before a serious situation became disastrous. Amory’s reputation for civic activism is well-known and documented. It expects to succeed when it undertakes any difficult task.
– Amory’s workforce is proven. Its adaptability can be enhanced by retraining opportunities offered by community colleges and other institutions
– Its already-diversified industrial base shows economic depth beyond even serious blows like the loss of 1,000 jobs.
Mississippi’s Appalachian Regional Commission director, Glenn McCullough Jr. of Tupelo, said Wednesday Amory’s situation isn’t an isolated phenomenon. Similar cities across the multi-state Appalachian region feel the effects of global restructuring. Amory, he said, holds much stronger assets than most other communities in dealing with significant economic changes.
Major, lasting change doesn’t happen with the snap of a finger. Those who counsel patience, like North Mississippi Industrial Dewvelopment Association executive Bill Boyd of West Point, are right. Amory needs time, and it has assets and enthusiasm to sustain a prolonged effort.
It also has 600,000 square feet of manufacturing space available for almost immediate occupancy. Somewhere in the U.S. or in another country an enterprise or an entrepreneur has an opportunity ready for Amory’s assets. The Economic Development Partnership can make the match.