November 23, 2013 8:24:19 PM
JACKSON -- Developing industrial parks can cost a lot of money, and there are certainly never any guarantees of a return on the taxpayer's investment. What are the pros and cons of deciding to invest in the infrastructure needed to attract industrial and business development?
There is a saying: "No site, no project."
"Ready-to-go sites separate communities into winners and losers at the beginning of the location process," said David Rumbarger, president of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo. "The better prepared the community and the site, the more likely a community is to make a candidate list for a prospect visit. And in the current economic development market, the site must be fully prepared."
Many regional utilities have used versions of certified site programs to motivate and encourage communities to focus on this aspect of community preparation. CDF's supplier, the Tennessee Valley Authority, was one of the first to recognize and put money into sites.
"Lee County has successfully developed five industrial parks with more than 3,000 acres of industrial land since 1948," Rumbarger said.
"Today, there is more than 22 million square feet of industrial space with less than a six percent vacancy rate. There are 39 industries in Lee County industrial parks that employ more than 8,500 persons."
When looking at the "pro" side of developing industrial parks, the Golden Triangle Development Link is the poster child for success in Mississippi.
"We have purchased/developed almost 6,000 acres in the last ten years," said Link CEO Joe Max Higgins Jr.
"We currently have options on another 1,000 acres that are strategically located. We have installed more than $200 million in infrastructure (water/sewer/rail/roads). We have secured investment of $4.5 billion and have created 5,600 jobs. In Lowndes alone we are putting almost $20 million into the school and city/county coffers annually."
His philosophy is, if you don't have product, you are not going to win.
"But you must have resources other than the product to win, you must have an adequately funded and staffed organization and also the ability to offer a competitive incentive package in addition to what the state might offer," Higgins said.