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October 27, 2020

Chamber Selects VisionFirst Advisors

Plans to develop economic development strategic plan.

The Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce has announced plans to develop a new economic development strategy that will outline the organization’s priorities and actions over the next five years. The plan’s development will be led by VisionFirst Advisors, an economic development consulting firm which provides services focused on state, regional and local economic development strategy as well as location advisory services.

“We are happy to be working with VisionFirst Advisors, LLC and their CEO, Gray Swoope, to better understand Bolivar County’s economic development status,” said Cheryl Comans, President of the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce.  “In an effort for us to capture views from all of Bolivar County businesses and residents, it is very important that everyone complete the survey that will be provided in follow-up communications.”

Reassessing the community’s economic status and needs is even more important as communities and the nation begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding the importance of recovery and resiliency in developing the plan, VisionFirst Advisors will identify and align the Cleveland-Bolivar County’s strengths and challenges into a cohesive direction that prioritizes opportunities and actions for the Chamber.  

“Cleveland-Bolivar County is known for its tourism amenities and creative economy,” said Gray Swoope. “Today the community is at an important crossroads to reinvigorate its economic development initiatives. It’s time to prioritize the Chamber’s efforts to increase job creation and capital investment in the community.”

VisionFirst will begin by deploying an online resident survey and conducting interviews with local stakeholders. In addition, the firm will utilize demographic research to benchmark the county against the state and the nation while outlining best practices in economic development activities. 

Data highlighting county advantages include:

• A young population: The average age in Bolivar County is 35.2 which is younger than the state at 37.2 and the nation at 37.9 with 25 percent of the population being under 18 demonstrating the community as a location for families. 

• Increased wages. The average worker in Bolivar County, Mississippi earned annual wages of $36,806 as of 2019 Q4. Average annual wages per worker increased 1.1 percent in the region over the preceding four quarters.

• Lower cost of living. The cost of living index estimates the relative price levels for consumer goods and services. When applied to wages and salaries, the result is a measure of relative purchasing power. The cost of living is more than 25 percent lower in Bolivar County than the U.S. average.  

• A strong manufacturing sector. A strong industry cluster in Bolivar County is manufacturing which employs nearly 1,400 people with an average wage of $52,941. 

Utilizing these data points along with additional information from national sources, VisionFirst will develop a plan which will provide a clear course of action, milestones and measures. The overarching goals, strategies and tactics will build upon the existing resources and infrastructure to strategically grow jobs, support businesses and build a collaborative network to grow the economy. 

The development of the plan is supported by Entergy Mississippi, LLC, Cooperative Energy and the Delta Electric Power Association.

About VisionFirst Advisors:

After 30 years of leading public and private economic development organizations in three different states, Gray Swoope helped launch VisionFirst Advisors, LLC, an economic development consulting company focused on location advisory services, economic development strategy, organizational management and result-driven marketing and communications. VisionFirst is a wholly owned subsidiary of Butler Snow LLP with nearly 400 attorneys in 17 U.S. cities as well as international offices in London, Hong Kong and Singapore. This unique structure allows VisionFirst to utilize the strength of the Butler Snow network, combined with the staff’s experience, knowledge and business connections to deliver results. To learn more about VisionFirst visit www.visionfirstadvisors.com. 

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