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Local delegation to seek federal support

Madison County is presenting a unified front to Mississippi's congressional delegation to lobby for projects that will benefit the entire county.

A group of 30, including eight elected officials, has a full schedule in Washington, D.C., next Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with senators, representatives and their aides to push for funding for economic development, transportation and utility improvements.

"This sends a strong message to Washington that we're working together, from county and municipal officials to the private sector," said Gina Daniels, executive director of the Madison County Foundation.

In years past, different groups of elected officials and business leaders have made separate trips to Washington to push for separate agendas. Now, at the request of the Board of Supervisors, economic development agencies and county and municipal officials agreed to cooperate and coordinate with one another to improve business and economic development in the county.

The trip is drawing members of the Madison County Foundation, Madison County Business League and Madison County Economic Development Authority besides all five supervisors, the chancery clerk and the mayors of Canton and Ridgeland. Group members are identifying themselves as Madison Countians united for progress not as representatives of their individual organizations.

"It's a team effort," MCEDA director Tim Coursey said. "We are all strategic partners."

A list of 10 projects, which all need federal funding support, will be discussed before the Washington officials. Altogether, the projects represent the need for about $100 million in federal monies, Coursey said.

"These are our common needs that are important to the county as a whole," he said. "The projects presented are ones we all have our arms around. They benefit the whole county."

However, the local group realizes that, with no more federal earmarks, the work to find funding is just beginning with the Washington trip, Coursey said. "These are not just flat-out requests. We'll have to do more ourselves and be creative to find resources. It will be hard work on our part."

Local officials will need to conduct research to find any proposed bills that might have funding opportunities for Madison County projects or grant opportunities, Coursey said.

Mississippi's two senators and the two representatives who represent Madison County suggested the trip to Washington, said Jan Collins, director of the Business League. "They encouraged us to come to Washington to give them our priorities," she said. "Everybody is trying to figure out the best way to get funding."

On Tuesday, the group will meet with Sen. Thad Cochran followed by Sen. Roger Wicker in their offices in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Tuesday night, MCEDA, the Business League and the Madison County Foundation are hosting a reception in the Mike Mansfield room of the Capitol for the senators, congressmen and their staffers. Also invited are the delegations from Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee.

On Wednesday, meetings are scheduled with Rep. Gregg Harper and Rep. Bennie Thompson, Madison County's representative, in addition to Reps. Alan Nunnelee and Steve Palazzo.

"It will be a fast and furious two days," Daniels said.

BY LUCY WEBER • LWEBER@MCHERALD.COM • JANUARY 26, 2012

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