May 12, 2014 9:17:29 AM
The results of a comprehensive strategic economic and community development study of the Golden Triangle will be presented to the public for review and discussion Tuesday.
William Fruth, president of independent economic research firm POLICOM, presented his report to county and municipal governments this morning. He will share that information with the general public at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Lyceum building on the Mayhew campus of East Mississippi Community College.
Fruth coordinated with the Golden Triangle Development LINK to gather research by meeting with industry leaders as well as elected officials, utility providers and LINK executive committee members over the last six months.
LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said Fruth also evaluated educational and industrial activity in each of the LINK's three member counties in Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha counties.
Higgins said Fruth's report will provide a road map for how each county, EMCC, Mississippi State University and the region as a whole can work to become among the highest performing micropolitan areas in the nation in terms of economic development and opportunity for growth.
Because of what's already been done to bring current and future industry to the area, Fruth's study concludes that additional land purchases and site developments are not as high a priority as the need to utilize what is already in place to lure more industry and provide more opportunities for employment.
"There are probably going to be four or five things that if we do, we're going to significantly change ourselves," Higgins said. "There's some poverty in these counties and unemployable people in the county because they don't have skill sets. That's about the worst thing you can say about us, but what he says is, if you can get a handle on this and put some of these things in place to improve it, he has every belief that the region can be among the highest performing micropolitans in the country."
Half of Fruth's $50,000 study was underwritten by C-Spire, which inked a deal last October to locate a $20 million data center in the Thad Cochran Research Technology and Economic Development Park at MSU. Higgins said the remainder was funded by the LINK Trust and a small portion of the LINK's general operational budget.
Higgins said two of Fruth's recommendations involve expansion of the research park at MSU and a new Center for Manufacturing Technology Excellence at EMCC for industrial training, the latter of which would require the combined efforts and support of the LINK's municipalities and counties to come to fruition.
"We're going to have to figure out what that next generation training facility looks like, and that's something we would have to tackle on a regional basis," Higgins said.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
1. Ex-office manager arrested for embezzlement COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY