Lathan optimistic about Golden Triangle's future

April 18, 2013 10:18:58 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


The Golden Triangle is poised for new industries and job growth, said Brenda Lathan, Golden Triangle Development Link vice president for economic development, during GTDL's quarterly luncheon Wednesday at East Mississippi Community College.  


Lathan spoke on behalf of Oktibbeha County and Clay County counterparts Joey Deason and Ron Maloney as well as Link CEO Joe Max Higgins, all of whom were absent.  


Highlights of her update included Lowndes County's approval Monday of a memorandum of understanding with sustainable building material manufacturer CalStar, which is in the process of finalizing a deal to move into an Agracel speculative building in the Golden Triangle Regional Aerospace Industrial Park. The company is expected to invest around $10-12 million and employ approximately 60 people, Lathan said. The deal should be finalized by mid-July. 


The Link is also in negotiations with two existing industries who are looking to expand, she said. As many as 200 additional jobs could be created through those expansions if they occur. 


She said the Link also plans to complete land acquisition for the industrial park by the end of the year. 


"We've reached tentative agreements with the remaining landowners to acquire those properties," Lathan said. 


She also confirmed that construction on a Hampton Inn and Suites on 18th Avenue would commence in the next few months. In a previous Dispatch report, developer Mark Castleberry confirmed his plan to build what will be the third hotel on that property. Lathan said Castleberry and Peachtree Hotel Group have selected a contractor for the project. 


Asset management group Stuart B. Millner & Associates began auctioning off equipment from the building that formerly housed Omnova Solutions Wednesday, Lathan said, adding that the Link is in the beginning stages of gauging interest from potential buyers of all or a portion of that building. 


Lathan also updated attendees on developments in Starkville and West Point. Starkville aldermen approved a 15-year, $3.25 million tax increment financing agreement Tuesday for The Mill project. 


"This project will include hotels, restaurants and a conference center," Lathan said. "The conference center will also encompass the renovation of the (Mississippi State University) Cooley Center, so that will be a big plus for the entire area, not just Starkville." 


In West Point, the new Prairie Belt Powersite "continues to have exceptional interest" from potential tenants, Lathan said, adding that 14 proposals have been submitted since the site's inception last year and there are a number of returning bids. 


Overall, Columbus is growing in economic strength, Lathan said. Economic research firm Policom recently ranked the city as 24th out of 576 micropolitan areas -- an improvement over its 2012 ranking of 46. 


Starkville dropped from 182nd to 190th in that report, while West Point dropped from 329th to 369th. Their recent merger with the Link should eventually improve those rankings, she said. 


"It is our desire and intent to bring those numbers up as well as get Columbus' up as high as we can," Lathan said. "We're getting pretty close to being as high as Columbus will be, but Starkville and West Point, we look to see them come up."

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.