July 12, 2014 10:58:23 PM
Clay County supervisors unanimously approved an inter-local agreement with East Mississippi Community College to set aside money for a new workforce training facility.
Beginning in January 2015, the county has the authority to raise millage, if necessary, to provide $66,666 a year for 15 years, an amount not to exceed $1 million.
Billed as Communiversity, the new facility is projected to cost $38 million. State legislators committed $8 million toward the project this year and are expected to budget more during next year's legislative session.
In the next 10 days, the other two boards of supervisors in the Golden Triangle will be asked by the Golden Triangle Development LINK and EMCC to commit Communiversity funding. Lowndes County supervisors will be asked to commit $10 million when they meet Tuesday. On July 21, Oktibbeha County supervisors will be asked to set aside $2.5 million.
Clay County District 1 Supervisor Lynn Horton said he's optimistic that by the time officials break ground on the facility, the county's financial position will not require a millage increase. A new, expanded component for the EMCC satellite campus will be key in showing commitment to expanding the manufacturing base in the Golden Triangle area, he added.
"I think it will be great for the Golden Triangle and Clay County," Horton said. "We're trying to gear up to be ready for whatever jobs that will be coming our way. We want trained, qualified people."
The proposed 133,690 square-foot, three-story building would house 15 manufacturing, technology and engineering educational bays on a 12-acre site near the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, land that had already been donated to EMCC. The facility would also house two computer workstations, eight classrooms, seminar space and administrative offices as well as dining services and a room dedicated to displaying current industrial products and development activity in the Golden Triangle.
EMCC officials said if funded, the project could begin in August 2015 and construction would take about two years.
Clay County supervisors also renewed their general services contract with the LINK. The contract requires the county to pay $350,000 a year to the LINK for the next three years for economic and industrial development services. West Point selectmen agreed Tuesday to foot half of that amount if Clay County pays the other half. The new contract entitles the LINK to 5 percent of fee-in-lieu revenues and requires the county to provide two years' notice of intent to terminate its contract with the LINK if it wishes to do so. The previous contract provided the LINK 10 percent of fee-in-lieu revenues.
When they meet Tuesday, Lowndes County supervisors will also have the option to renew their contract with the LINK. Like Clay County, Lowndes will be asked to provide $350,000 annually for services.
The current contract calls for $330,000 yearly, $110,000 of which the city of Columbus appropriates. County board president Harry Sanders said he expects the board to stay with the LINK for another three years and would likely ask the city to increase its annual commitment to $120,000 a year, with the county paying the remaining $330,000 annually.
Columbus councilmen Kabir Karriem, Bill Gavin and Joseph Mickens all said they do not see a scenario in which the city would not agree to the request. In fact, Mickens said he would like to see the city dedicate more funding each year toward the LINK in the future.
"I'm trying to come up with something where we contribute more and let (LINK CEO Joe) Higgins know we're all in and willing to do whatever we can to make this area better," Mickens said.
The city and LINK briefly ended their 10-year retail recruitment partnership in January after councilmen considered adding contracting with an Alabama retail development firm to recruit new retail, a service LINK had already been providing. The two entities resumed as partners a month later. The temporary split did not interfere with the city's partnership with the LINK for industrial recruitment.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.