September 27, 2011 10:59:00 AM
Steve Langston knows there's big shoes to fill as board chairman of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.
Since he first became involved with the Partnership in 2001, Starkville has seen dynamic growth in retail businesses as well as industrial expansion at the Mississippi State University Research Park.
The Partnership itself has grown, too, as the Convention and Visitors Bureau has since formed the Starkville Main Street Association to help spur growth in downtown Starkville.
The Partnership currently has 384 members, whose membership donations account for 42 percent of the Partnership's annual revenues. Membership figures to grow with the number of banks and restaurants that will have opened for business by the end of the calendar year.
"It's a great honor to step in and steer the ship," said Langston, who was announced as Partnership Chairman during Monday's board meeting. "Our university is growing by leaps and bounds, as is our research and school systems. I look forward to the next two years."
Langston, president of Sullivan's Office Supply, takes over for Amy Tuck as chairman and will serve a two-year term. Langston also spent two years as chair-elect.
Langston lauded Tuck's leadership in continuing to grow Partnership members as the economy experienced a downturn over the last two years.
His key emphasis moving forward is increasing the Partnership's membership, especially in Starkville's industrial and research base.
"Under Amy's leadership, we've worked on team projects at the airport and in the industrial park to recruit industry to the area," Langston said. "There's a lot of things that have been accomplished in that realm in Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha (counties), and they all play off each other because each county offers something different. Here, our recruitment for research technology has been vital."
Partnership membership benefits differ slightly on the retail and industrial ends of the spectrum, as industrial prospects receive services that aid in finding suitable building locations and lease costs. Additionally, the Partnership's community functions and advertising help bring in thousands of tourists that one business can't attract alone, Langston said.
To aid in membership recruitment, the Partnership announced the hiring of Austin Shafer as vice president of membership and chamber of commerce. Shafer is the son of Starkville architect, Gary Shafer, and former Dux D'Lux owner Debra Shafer.
The position had been vacant since February.
"He'll be our face with a lot of members, both with retention and bringing in new members," Langston said. "I think with the hire of Gary will help continue the existing relationships with business and industries in Starkville -- they're the heartbeat."
Partnership adopts budget
The Partnership unanimously approved its budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, with only minor spending cuts in advertising and special projects.
The Partnership slashed $27,000 in program expenses to help offset a projected loss of $17,500 in revenue from the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority marketing contract.
As with any projection, the Partnership budget isn't a static figure. Treasurer Sammy Slaughter said the membership revenue could grow by the end of the year and impact '11-'12 program spending.
Slaughter said the same was true of the final month of the '10-'11 budget, which showed less revenue than projected but also showed the Partnership was $66,000 under budget in expenses.
"We've still got some payments set to come in, so we're in good shape to hit budget by the end of the year," Slaughter said.
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