City, county hoping to lure Link-recommended Project Cumulus

September 8, 2013 12:27:37 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


Starkville and Oktibbeha County officials are working to deliver a Golden Triangle Development Link-backed project, an almost-$20 million investment for data processing, to the Thad Cochran Research Park. 


Officials say the plan, dubbed Project Cumulus, is still in the prospect phase -- a formal deal is not yet inked -- but it could create 100 temporary construction jobs and five permanent, full-time positions if the anonymous investor chooses Oktibbeha County. 


The permanent jobs could pay approximately $50,000-$65,000 per position, Joey Deason, Oktibbeha County's Link representative, said Saturday. The community's restaurants and hotels should also see an increase in business associated with construction once the deal is finalized. 


Starkville aldermen approved Tuesday a 10-year exemption for project site property taxes -- ad valorem will be waived, but school taxes remain due -- with little discussion on the matter. An agenda item marked "economic development" was listed under executive session matters, but the waiver was placed on consent and passed quickly. 


"This is a great example of us showing faith and putting our trust with the Link," Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard said. "They're definitely moving in a positive direction." 


On Monday, Deason will approach the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors with the same tax waiver. The request is expected to pass with little difficulty. 


"This is a significant investment we can all get excited about," said Orlando Trainer, Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors president. "It can add value to our tax base and also bring in more money for our schools. The Link recommends this project, and I don't see us not moving forward as a board with the request." 


Depending on the project's success, Deason said additional phases -- more investment and jobs -- could be planned in the future. 


"Right now, we have to work with the company to bring about a memorandum of understanding, which at this point has not been executed," Deason said. "This could be a really big win for Starkville and Oktibbeha County. I've asked some folks about when the last time a $20 million, private investment was made in Starkville and Oktibbeha County. Today, nobody can give me an answer. Most major investments have been made by Mississippi State University or other public entities that do not pay taxes. This could be one of the largest private projects Starkville has ever seen." 


Supervisors are also expected to open project bids for old Miss. Highway 25 and Dotson Road Bridge.  


Board members previously said they hope to schedule a public meeting between the county and OCH Regional Medical Center, but officials have not yet confirmed a date. That meeting is expected to take place after the county tends to its Fiscal Year 2014 budgeting process.  


A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Friday.

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch