Tri-county alliance: First step proving more difficult than anticipated

October 22, 2012 10:03:25 AM



A month or so ago, hundreds of people packed into the Lyceum at East Mississippi Community College's Mayhew campus for the unveiling of what we now know as the Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority. 


With great fanfare, the new group's steering committee, under the guidance of Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Max Higgins, presented its plans before an appreciative audience. 


It was pretty obvious from the presentation that the group had meticulous plans for how the new economic development partnership would be created. Among the material was an implementation schedule, something Higgins took great care to explain. The project that began in September would culminate with a fully-functional GTRDA in October 2014. 


One of the first things on the schedule was obtaining contracts from Oktibbeha County/Starkville, similar to the one in place between the Link and the West Point Growth Alliance. During the presentation, and in subsequent public comments, this first step seemed to be little more than a formality. 


While there is nothing to suggest that Oktibbeha County and Starkville will decline to sign on -- killing the plan before it really started -- there are some indications that getting that approval may take some doing. 


During Tuesday's Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk asked Higgins some pointed questions. What can this new group really achieve for Starkville that its current economic development group, The Greater Starkville Development Partnership, can't? Why should Starkville sign on with an outfit whose expertise lies in landing big industrial/manufacturing complexes, something Starkville isn't in the market for? How can the aldermen justify to voters coughing up its portion of the annual $350,000 that is required if it signs on? 


These are all questions that Higgins and his partners in the new group must answer to the satisfaction of the aldermen. 


They are all legitimate questions. They deserve careful consideration. 


Starkville cannot be taken for granted. 


The first step seems a bit tougher than first imagined.