Cooper Cancels Project

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The news came Monday morning at a news conference. Mayor John Robert Smith made the announcement.

"The only way I know to deal with bad news is to take it head-on," said Smith. "There will be no new Cooper Community for Meridian, Mississippi, in the near future."

John Cooper, III, is the new president of the family-owned company. He took executives on a retreat several weeks ago and from those meetings came the decision to cancel the Meridian project.

"It is with deep regret that we have to withdraw our plans to go forward with the development in Meridian," said Cooper. "This is primarily an internal decision that we had made over the past week and a half as we had been sort of circling our wagons in respect to the economy and the environment that we're operating in today."

Cooper had only praise for Meridian and even offered a tiny sliver of hope.

"We think Meridian is an outstanding place and we're not ruling out that in the future if we can work out our kinks so to speak that we might not come back," said Cooper.

But for now, he said economic confusion has taken over.

"Really, it's basically we don't know what to expect and it's a real nervous time and to make this kind of investment when you're questioning your ability really doesn't make sense until we get more answers," said the Cooper president.

Community leaders did their best to put a positive spin on the loss of Cooper.

"We will have to regroup and do something else," said Al Rosenbaum of the Riley Foundation.

"It's not a matter of getting knocked down in life. It's a matter of getting up and continuing on, you know, and I think we'll certainly continue on," said Tommy Dulaney, chairman of the board for the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation. "We're not quitters."

"Just as recently as last week we had another industrial prospect in for the (new industrial) park," said Wade Jones, president of the EMBDC. "Things are good and by working together as one community, as we did on this project, we will be successful."

Mayor Smith said Meridian will recover from the loss of the Cooper project.