July 22, 2014 10:05:39 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Golden Triangle Development LINK secured the last local-level funding commitment for a proposed East Mississippi Community College workforce development center Monday as Oktibbeha County supervisors pledged $2.5 million across 15 years for the project.
With the commitment, the LINK has secured a combined $13.5 million from Oktibbeha, Lowndes ($10 million) and Clay ($1 million) counties for the estimated $35-40 million facility developers say will position the Golden Triangle for expected industrial development opportunities in the future.
An additional $18 million for the project was promised by the state, LINK consultant and former Mississippi State University President Malcolm Portera told supervisors Monday. The LINK and EMCC are expected to secure additional monies through non-local avenues.
Like Lowndes and Clay counties, Oktibbeha will spread its commitment across 15 yearly payments, totaling $166,666.67 each. A .5-mill tax increase, supervisors said after the meeting, will cover the expense, but that increase may be deterred with an incoming property value reassessment.
The planned three-story, almost 134,000-square-foot facility will house 15 manufacturing, technology and engineering educational bays -- triple the amount currently offered at EMCC -- on a 12-acre site near the Golden Triangle Regional Airport previously donated to the school. It will also contain dining services, computer workstations, classrooms and seminar space, while providing administrative offices and an additional 14,000 square feet for leasing opportunities.
A large display room is expected to house products made by Golden Triangle manufacturers.
The facility should open August 2015.
LINK and EMCC officials have repeatedly said the school needs to intensify its workforce training opportunities for Yokohama Tire Corporation's planned Clay County project and potential subsequent phases.
"This commitment allows us, as a county, to address one of our biggest needs: employment-based education," said District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery. "The fact is we can't have new jobs come in without having the ability to teach residents how to do them. Our relationship with the LINK has been very beneficial, and we hope it continues to grow."
Prior to the board's financial commitment, supervisors renewed its agreement for economic development services with the link. The city, county and Greater Starkville Development Partnership-umbrella entities will provide the Columbus-based group $350,000 under the three-year deal. An additional $50,000 is also pledged for legal, engineering and other due diligence studies as they arise.
Since joining the LINK, Oktibbeha County has seen small economic development successes. First, the organization helped deliver a C Spire commitment that will construct a data-processing facility in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park. The LINK also helped bring in a filing products manufacturer to property adjacent to Starkville's airport.
LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins promised his organization will continue pressing for further economic successes.
The contract's approval opens the door for Starkville and Oktibbeha County to approve a combined $10 million in bonds for a new industrial park near the Miss. Highway 182 and Miss. Highway 25 bypass. LINK officials previously said Oktibbeha County needs a shovel-ready site if it wants to lure significant industrial projects.
Cornerstone Park, an industrial park near the Miss. Highway 12 and Miss. Highway 25 bypass, sits vacant due to electricity shortcomings. A parcel of land was previously donated to the Mississippi Highway Patrol for a future Troop G headquarters, but the area's power grid cannot currently support more than a residential load.
While 4-County Power Association previously forecasted a possible load increase in 2017, LINK officials say waiting for a possibility hurts the county's chances at economic enticement.
If bonds are approved by both the city and county, the industrial project could enter its design phase by late summer or early fall, Higgins said last month.
It is unknown if Starkville aldermen will approve its $5 million portion of bonds as both Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins and Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn opposed renewing the city's LINK contract last week.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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