Article Comment 

Link works to land 15 companies


Kristin Mamrack



Last year was slow for economic development, but this year''s a different story, Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins said Monday. 


"It was the second worst year (for economic development) ever," Higgins explained of 2009, noting the Link, this year, already is vying for 15 projects, industrial developments with an average investment of $26 million and average job counts of 200. "Now, the state''s busy, the (Tennessee Valley Authority) is busy and we''re busy. 


"I don''t think it''s any coincidence you''re seeing four aerospace projects (on the list of projects we''re trying to land), he added. "We''re trying to get labeled as a Mississippi aerospace cluster." 


In addition to visiting existing manufacturers and industry in the first quarter of 2010, Link officials have been "trying to come up with strategies to get more industrial investment in the city" and have presented proposals for projects considering Lowndes County as a location, Higgins noted. 


In just the last three weeks, the Link has been "actively vying" for the following projects: A $45 million automotive company to potentially bring 500 new jobs to the area; a $15 million renewable energy project with 50 jobs; a $25 million Severstal-related customer to be located on the Severstal site, with 100 jobs; and a $60 million Severstal-related customer to be located on the Severstal site, with 230 jobs. 


Also, the Link has been working, in the last three weeks, to land a $7 million renewable energy project with 75 jobs, a $12 million aerospace-related project with 75 jobs, a $2 million high-tech material manufacturer with 50 jobs and a $12 million automotive stamper with 150 jobs. 


So far this year, the Link also has been vying for a $20 million global consumer products company with 300 jobs, a $55 million aerospace project with 500 jobs, a $10 million aviation project with 160 jobs, a $15 million aerospace project with 200 jobs, a $50 million transportation project with 350 jobs and a $15 million expansion of an existing underground gas facility with five jobs. 


Additionally, a $50 million metal processor project-- not related to Severstal-- with 200 jobs, which earlier was on hold now is "back in play," Higgins said, noting the Link, so far this year, has been vying for a total of $393 million in projects with a total job count of 2,945. 


Proposals have been submitted to these companies, site visits are scheduled or have been held and "most will be in decision-making mode" by June or sooner, Higgins noted. 


"We''re going to get some of these," he said. "You can''t work that many and not get some of these." 




Retail and Sales Tax 


The industrial-development future is bright, but Columbus'' retail prospects still are a bit dim, he acknowledged. 


"Retail is slow and is going to be slow, we think, for a little bit longer," Higgins explained, adding the revision of flood plain plans helps the potential for retail development. 


"Leigh Mall coming out of the flood plain is a big, big deal," he said. "It will cast a favorable light on an expansion or redevelopment of that property." 


The new plans are expected to be approved this spring and Link officials are "tracking retail" developments, Higgins added. 


Compared to 2008/2009, retail sales in Columbus and Lowndes County are down about $34 million from last year''s total of $1,012,284,033. 


According to data prepared by the Link, from the Mississippi State Tax Commission, automotive sales are down $32,365,477 from last year, the sales of machinery, equipment and supplies are down $12,141,525, furniture and fixtures sales are down $5,323,256, lumber and building materials sales are down $11,289,311, miscellaneous retail sales are down $7,326,308 and miscellaneous services sales are down $1,206,341. 


Food and beverage sales are up $3,101,934 from last year, sales of apparel and general merchandise have increased $3,253,338 from last year, contracting sales are up $26,842,829 and recreation sales have increased by $79,445. 


In comparison, Starkville and Oktibbeha County have seen retail sales increase $8,972.118 from last year''s total of $529,310,905. 


Automotive, furniture and fixtures, lumber and building materials, miscellaneous retail and miscellaneous services sales have decreased in Starkville and Oktibbeha County, compared to last year''s totals.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment TD commented at 3/30/2010 8:23:00 PM:

If the LINK can land just half of these 15 (just 7) it might relieve this gosh-awful unemployment.


Article Comment HOPEFULL commented at 3/30/2010 8:43:00 PM:

This is the toughest game in town. The public does not understand what it takes to just get a corp. or a co. to even consider looking at Columbus. It takes the Link,Trust and the Board of Supervisors to just get a small foot in the door. The people who say "go get us some jobs" have no idea what it takes. To have 15 projects on the board is "A BIG DEAL". If we got 3 or 4 it would be a big WIN. I dare say only 3-4 counties in Mississippi has anywhere near this number. When you see some one from the Link, Trust or the Board of Supervisors stop and THANK HIM OR HER. This will mean a lot to them. Remember not all the people that work to get these projects her are paid. Some even put there own money up to help. Be thankfull for what we have going and quit complaining. It could and can be worse! We ALL need to work together for the betterment of the City and County. That is the only way we can achieve these golds. It's ME AND YOU NOT "THEM" that can make this happen.


Article Comment Now were talking commented at 3/31/2010 2:07:00 AM:

C'mon Link bring these companies in, Columbus needs them! However, the aerospace part concerns me. When the economy tanks, planes are not purchased much and like what we already have they rely on contracts. So like Navistar and others, when a company loses a contract or just cannot land one they don't need to make planes. This causes plants to idle and workers to get laid off. With the federal government cutting the defense budget this could be a false sense of security. Don't get me wrong, I think the Link is doing a GREAT job and I hope we get at least one of these, but I do feel we need more stable industry brought here not contract work. Heck even look at PACCAR, they were already supposed to be up and running yet they are idle for the most part and have yet to fully take off.


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