Claiborne County (MS) – Economic Development Strategic Plan
ChallengeBordered by the Mississippi River on the west and Homochitto National Forest to its southeast, Claiborne County is blessed with an abundance of economic, natural, and cultural assets. The spirit and aspirations of its residents are revealed in Port Gibson’s historic downtown and on the campus of Alcorn State University. These blessings have not yet been fully translated into economic vitality for the county and its citizens, however. Despite the presence of a university — often a key factor in rural population growth — Claiborne County has struggled to maintain its population. Facing this challenge with specific strategies will be imperative for the county’s future. We believe that renewing focus on Alcorn State by leveraging specific programs and promoting it as a major asset could present new economic development opportunities for the area. An additional economic asset the county has been unable to leverage is Entergy’s Grand Gulf Nuclear Station. This facility offers tremendous opportunities to reinvigorate the local economy.
ApproachRecognizing these challenges, TIP Strategies — an Austin-based economic development consulting firm — was hired to assist in crafting a response. The findings and recommendations outlined in this economic development strategic plan, titled Claiborne County: An Emerging Regional Destination, will serve as a framework for guiding future economic development efforts in the county. To complete this project, the consulting team toured industrial properties and sites, interviewed business and community leaders, and conducted an economic and demographic assessment of the county to better understand its challenges and assets.
OutcomeThe foundation of the economic development plan was the formation of Claiborne County’s first formal economic development entity. This recommendation was accompanied by specific details for the organization’s structure, funding, operations, and regional economic development partners, including Entergy Mississippi. A central focus for the plan was the recognition of the importance of existing employers in the county, including the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, and the support of their operations. In addition, TIP Strategies identified several target sectors for industrial and business development, including agriculture/ag processing, wood products, biomass/biofuels, and retail/leisure. The plan also included a number of non-traditional recommendations. Foremost among these was leveraging Alcorn State University for economic development, an underutilized higher education asset in the county. TIP also provided guidance within the plan on marketing strategies to enhance the County’s regional image through tourism promotion and downtown redevelopment.
Photo credit Natalie Maynor