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From the mayor’s desk: Shift South positives far outweigh negative

We have received national attention for our Shift South Campaign, our $6,000 incentive to draw remote workers to Natchez.

It was designed to both lure remote workers from all parts of the US to Natchez and, in so doing, draw national attention to our city.

Well it is working big time! Natchez has been the talk all over the world, from major news outlets like Fox, CNN, and BBC to local newscasts and radio shows all across the country – even Forbes and Southern Living! Our phones have literally been ringing off the hook!

Simultaneously, I have noticed an uptick in what I call “Social Media Negativity”, mostly from local sources. I must confess that I haven’t had time to respond to everything on Facebook lately – we are just too busy making opportunity happen in Natchez!

But I do feel the need to respond to the commentary out there. I don’t know why folks would rather spend their precious energy in this way, but I’d like to offer some words of encouragement – and some reasons to celebrate!

Since taking office in July, we have been working very hard to get Natchez moving in the right direction. We must build our economy and increase our tax base in order to get the city in a better financial position and create opportunity for our citizens.

Over the past six months, we’ve instituted a number of cost-cutting measures, and we have also balanced the budget without raising taxes. Tax increases being experienced right now are from the school board and a reassessment of property values done by the county. These are outside the city’s control. The City of Natchez has not increased taxes one penny. Taxes on our local citizens are already at a tipping point.

After doing the research, we settled on $150k as the minimum investment of real estate to qualify for Shift South because it was an amount that would make the numbers work and recoup the city’s investment in about 18 months.

Thanks to coverage on news outlets around the world, our phones have been ringing off the hook, and houses are selling at a rate we haven’t seen in many years. This is healthy for our economy.

We will soon be ripe for new housing development – and this means expansion of the tax base and an influx of new citizens and their families, friends and cash to support our local businesses.

In addition we are currently issuing a record number of new business and new building permits at City Hall. New jobs are coming and a number of great economic development announcements are on the horizon. Not to mention that Loss Prevention Services has moved into their renovated building on Franklin Street and already hired over 80 people, well on their way to the over 200 jobs promised. This has breathed new life into downtown and spurred more development and real estate purchases.

Right now, millions of dollars in new construction is underway in our city. Businesses that were closed during the pandemic have reopened. Many new businesses are opening, and soon, the change in Natchez will be notable – all of this during a time in our country when many cities have closed their economies and are suffering depression-like conditions.

We call it the Natchez Renewal. And we are excited! Keep the hope. Let the positive drown out the negative. Better days are ahead!

God bless all of you. And God bless Natchez.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.

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