Our View: Feeding the development beast

August 30, 2011 11:15:00 AM



Monetarily speaking, Lowndes County is the seventh most valuable county in the state of Mississippi. 


It''s not by accident. 


In the past six years, Lowndes County has added more market value than it did in its entire existence until 2003. 


From then to 2010, the county boasted the addition of more than $3.7 billion to the tax rolls. 


Coincidentally (or not), 2003 was the year the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link was born. 


Now, Lowndes County has an assessed value of $915 million, a small fraction of the market value of all the county''s taxable property. In personal property -- private industries such as Severstal and Paccar -- Lowndes County is second only to Jackson County. 


Steel. Aerospace. Defense. Trucking. Alternative fuel. 


You name it, we''ve got it. 


And more is brewing. Wednesday, an announcement is expected about a development to bring more much-needed jobs to the area. 


California-based solar silicon manufacturer Calisolar is at least one company that has given Columbus serious consideration recently.  


A special legislative session has been called for Friday, to consider job-creation incentives for the company. 


Nationally, the jobless rate is 9.1 percent; in Mississippi it''s 11.1 -- in Lowndes, 12.4, Clay, 20.1 and Oktibbeha, 12.3. 


With jobs comes the potential of improved prosperity, for all of us. 


With those jobs, come challenges. 


Challenges to local schools and governing bodies to create an environment where students can compete for the highly specialized jobs companies like Paccar and Eurocopter provide. 


Challenges to Golden Triangle communities as they compete to become the homes of the workers who move here to staff these plants.  


The growing development beast means challenges and rewards for more than just the Golden Triangle area -- it''s an engine in the economy of Mississippi and the South.  


Link CEO Joe Higgins cited an economist on Monday, who says the South is the third-largest economy in the world. And as Higgins has eloquently put it, we''ve gotta keep feeding the monster.As we understand, there''s much to do before this is a done deal, not the least of which is the support of the Legislature on Friday. 


We''re keeping our fingers crossed.