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06/08/2019

TadZo Meets with GREDF, Committee on Plan to Grow Population

 

On Thursday morning, the Great River Economic Foundation board and a group charged with helping create a tactical plan to grow population in Mississippi County participated in a video conference call with leaders of TadZo, the firm putting the plan together.

“This is a countywide project, so it includes everyone: Blytheville, Osceola, Armorel, Gosnell, Manila, Wilson, out in the country,” Mississippi County economic developer Clif Chitwood said.

Chitwood said over the last 15 years, GREDF and county leaders have helped facilitate the creation of 3,600 jobs, bringing in an annual payroll of about $120 million through an investment of county ½ cent sales tax of about $31 million. He said, however, the county is not experiencing population growth.

“There was a time that if you created the jobs, you would get the people,” Chitwood said. “But that time is gone. They’re going to help us readapt.”

He said the study will focus on how to retain young talent in county, ways to make Mississippi County more appealing for potential residents and examine the job training program.

“There have been a lot of plans developed over the years,” Great River Economic Development Foundation chairman Randy Scott said. “There would be a Blytheville plan, there would be an Osceola plan, there would be a county plan, but a lot of times it was done by the city or the county. After that elected official is no longer in office, it was put on a shelf and was never followed through with. So, we’ve had lots of plans through the years but none of them have been followed through.”

Scott said this plan becomes Great River Economic Development’s charge, a board that is “a living organization, that’s not elected, that’s not in and out. There’s a board that is going to be in place for the long-term.”

Chitwood also told the diverse Tacticial Planning Task Force that they were chosen to assist with helping create the plan because they are young and will be around to see it through to the end. Scott added the plan will have measurable goals for each year.

TadZo’s Allison Larsen explained the process to GREDF and the Tacticial Planning Task Force, detailing the three phases of the project: insights, imagination and action. Larsen anticipates the “bold, yet realistic tactical” plan should be ready in December, noting most take about six months.

TadZo will have six site visits to the county, staying roughly three days each time.

“You are in an envious position and then a challenging position as well,” Larsen said. “Your strong manufacturing culture, you’ve been successful in attraction and expansion. That’s all happening around a global crisis around talent. I would say a global crisis to the 10th degree in rural America.”

She said the tight labor market is particularly painful in rural America, as young people seem to prefer bigger cities.

The first phase of the project will study what the local economy looks like and the county’s assets, along with evaluating the labor force and inspiring thinking. The second phase is getting input from stakeholders, meeting with elected officials, business leaders and community members. TadZo will also interview those who work in the county but live in other areas to see what would attract them to live here. The final phase is writing and presenting the plan.

“Economic development is a team sport, it’s not just on two people,” Larsen said.

She added TadZo will check in with the county after the study is completed.

“I know there is going to be suspicions and doubts; those are just human traits,” Chitwood told the Tacticial Planning Task Force. “But what leadership does is understand what we’re doing and be able to explain it.”

Chitwood noted if you hold community meetings in Blytheville, Osceola and Manila “you will think you’ve been in three different sections of the United States of America, not just three different parts of the county.”

Tacticial Planning Task Force, which includes individuals with a wide range of backrounds, would be charged with answering questions from county residents about the plan.