October 1, 2013 9:40:47 AM
State and local government officials, higher education leaders and economic developers are expected to announce a major breakthrough concerning Project Cumulus, a proposed $20 million technology initiative, Thursday at the Thad Cochran Research Park.
Joey Deason, Oktibbeha County's Link representative, was unavailable for comment Monday, but Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman confirmed Thursday's announcement will deal with what would be the area's first major economic win while partnered with the tri-county development agency.
Wiseman, along with Link CEO Joe Max Higgins, Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum and Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jack Wallace, will attend the 2:30 p.m. announcement Thursday at the HPC 2 Building.
"It will be a memorable day for Starkville, Oktibbeha County and the Golden Triangle," Wiseman said. "This is an exciting project that brings significant opportunity and investment to our community."
Officials confirmed few details about the project after public discussions began in September. Deason previously told the Dispatch that Project Cumulus, the codename for the potential investment by a data-processing company, could bring in five or six high-paying, permanent jobs - about $50,000-$65,000 annually per position - and spur about 100 temporary construction jobs. Deason previously said he was hopeful further investment phases could add to the job total.
The investor's identity remained protected by economic development officials Monday.
A Link release announcing Thursday's press conference describes the initiative as one "that promises to boost the regional technology infrastructure for business and bring new investment and expansion opportunities to the Southeast region."
The Dispatch first reported the tentative announcement date when Deason provided an update to OCEDA members in September.
Both the Starkville Board of Aldermen and Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors approved 10-year tax abatements last month on the proposed research park site -- ad valorem will be waived, but school taxes remain due -- to entice development. At the time, officials estimated Oktibbeha County's consolidated school system could receive about $225,000 per year based on the first potential phase once the two districts merge in 2015.
City officials are also working to secure another major technology win for Starkville: the city is vying to become C Spire's first Fiber to the Home recipient.
The project, announced last week, represents a major investment that will develop ultra-fast, fiber optic Internet capabilities across the state. It will bring communities, including households, 1 gigabyte-per-second (1,000 megabytes) upload and download speeds.
Before the system goes statewide, C Spire will pick one community and develop Fiber to the Home services there first. Starkville officials communicated their interest in the project shortly after it was announced. Officials also traveled Monday to a C Spire work session for interested municipalities in Ridgeland.
C Spire is expected to announce its target city this fall and provide service by 2014. The support of local entities and resident pre-registration will be key factors in the announcement's timing. C Spire will pick a launch city based upon applicants' progressive, business-minded leadership; cost-saving agreements with local governments; and measured demand shown in the pre-registration process, the company announced last week.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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