How do you define economic development?


As a longtime member of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, I often wonder why some businesses choose not to be a part of this organization. So I asked and found that while just about everybody supports the EMBDC’s mission of economic development, many don’t realize that it includes economic development for THEM.

Economic development is often framed strictly within the context of attracting big business and industry. It is true that we all want, and need, new business and industry to call Lauderdale County home. We can all benefit from the economic impact that they will bring. However, this is just one side of the equation.

We are blessed to have been in business in Meridian for over 20 years. I understand as well as anyone what new economic development can mean for us all. However, I also realize how much our business has benefitted from our association with the EMBDC.

The networking opportunities alone have yielded tremendous benefits in meeting people who need the services we provide. Everybody talks about the importance of networking; the EMBDC makes it happen with events designed for that specific purpose.

Also, I have been allowed to work on special projects and serve on boards with other business owners in this community. This experience afforded me the opportunity to learn from their experiences. And I was fortunate enough to identify several mentors who have shared good advice and have taken an active interest in our company success over the years. These relationships have directly helped us continue to grow our business in this market.

Besides facilitating valuable networking opportunities, the EMBDC is also intentional about providing tangibles essential to us all. For example, during the early days of the pandemic, they helped local businesses transition to the production of face masks and shields when our healthcare facilities needed them most.

To cut through all the confusion, they have kept members up-to-date with current information regarding COVID-19, including local trends, impacts upon our healthcare infrastructure, projected outcomes, and recommendations for how we should respond as businesses and as a community.

When it was time to cautiously kick-start our local economy, the EMBDC provided the catalysts for moving forward with the Restart Restore Recover campaign, encouraging all local businesses to begin safely and responsibly operating again.

The campaign involved an integrated communications effort that offered specific guidance and helped build consensus and confidence among businesses to move forward. It also gave consumers the confidence to venture out and start spending again, knowing that sensible protocols were in place for their protection.

The EMBDC is now providing Business Before Hours Zoom webinars addressing content that we are all interested in. The first one featured John Anderson, President and CEO of Anderson Regional Health System, and Larkin Kennedy, President and CEO of Rush Health Systems.

The webinar, moderated by Archie McDonnell, CEO of Citizens National Bank, addressed important topics regarding COVID-19 trends and vaccine concerns.

The EMBDC will present several more Zoom sessions throughout the year to its membership. The content will be available via the EMBDC website to those who are not able to take part in the webinars.

The EMBDC has done a great job of communicating the quality of life that we all enjoy in this community. This is important when business prospects are considering us for future ventures. It is also important to those of us who already work here and raise our families here. We can be advocates for our community only if we know of all the wonderful things that we get to enjoy.

So my EMBDC membership has introduced me to people I’ve learned from and done business with, including mentors whose guidance have helped me tremendously. It has helped my business cope with and recover from the biggest world health crisis in a century. It continually feeds me information that I need. In short, it has provided me with quite a lot of economic development.

These services don’t happen without multiple resources and a committed membership. In May, the EMBDC will launch a membership campaign. Hopefully, if you are not a member, you will consider being a part of an organization that addresses economic development on behalf of local businesses — like yours.

Tony Pompelia is president of Leading Edges Marketing Communications

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