September 20, 2012 11:31:16 AM
Certainly, parts of the recently-proposed Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority-especially the amount and methods of funding for the new organization-need to be explored further, but the plan will almost certainly come to fruition. A very capable steering committee made up of leaders from the three counties has spent a significant amount of time crafting a well thought out plan and people are generally willing to bet on Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins based on his past success.
Higgins will lead the new organization, which is expected to be fully functional by October 2014.
The GTRDA plan calls for an economic developer to be hired for each of the three counties. Clay and Lowndes already have developers, and a search is scheduled to start for the Starkville developer at the beginning of October.
We'd like to see someone who can leverage an educated, dynamic and diverse population and who can help startups transition from the Thad Cochran Research Park to a permanent place in Oktibbeha County. We'd like to see someone who can guide a major retail development like the Cotton Mill to completion.
In Columbus and Lowndes, Higgins has had little experience in solving these types of problems. The Oktibbeha economic developer must be able to recognize Starkville's unique assets within the Golden Triangle and reconcile them with Higgins' mission of creating primary jobs (industrial and manufacturing jobs paying in excess of $47,000 annually).
Oktibbeha is neither suited for a steel mill, nor should it be trying to lure that type of employer.
While we are generally positive on the idea of GTRDA, we believe Starkville and Oktibbeha may have the most to lose. An economic developer who truly understands Starkville is key to this deal paying off.