If there’s a single unifying lesson to be gleaned from the economic success Northeast Mississippi has achieved over the years, it’s that collaboration and cooperation always beats parochialism.
It’s the not-so-secret recipe for success that other parts of the state envy yet often find difficult to replicate.
Whether it’s partnerships among public and private entities on a relatively limited scale – say within one municipality or county – or a larger, multi-county effort, working together is much more likely to produce results that benefit everybody.
At no point was this clearer than in 2007, when the unprecedented three-county PUL Alliance – working with other entities – secured a commitment from Toyota to build a manufacturing plant in Union County. Several years earlier, Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties had taken advantage of state legislation to become the first multi-county economic development consortium in the state.
That bold statement of regional cooperation brought more resources to bear in the effort to lure a major manufacturer to a “megasite” than any of the entities operating alone could have wielded. In it was the explicit recognition that narrow parochialism based on artificial political boundaries won’t work in today’s competitive economic development environment, if indeed it ever did.
Others took note, including nearby counties. Now a second regional alliance is forming in the region. Final documents have been approved creating the TAP Alliance, which will bring together the three counties in the northeasternmost corner of the state – Tishomingo, Alcorn and Prentiss, along with the cities of Iuka, Corinth and Booneville.
TAP is modeled after PUL, and will be working closely with the economic development arm of the Tennessee Valley Authority as it gets its structure and program off the ground in 2010. While PUL was formed for the explicit purpose of developing an industrial megasite, TAP has no specific project in mind at this point. Still, its organization is a promising sign for that part of Northeast Mississippi. The very act of coming together and envisioning the possibilities is significant progress.
Other clusters of counties in the region should be considering coming together as well. There is no compelling reason why every Northeast Mississippi county and its principal municipality should not be a part of a regional alliance. The expansion of financial capability alone is enough to commend the action.
Communities or counties that choose to go it entirely alone in economic development will increasingly be putting their future prosperity at risk. The TAP Alliance, coming in the wake of PUL’s success story, is another indication of that growing recognition.
NEMS Daily Journal