December 5, 2013 10:23:50 AM
The Golden Triangle Development Link held its last luncheon of 2013 on Wednesday and we are encouraged to note that the discussions were not confined to a recital of all of the wonderful things that have happened in economic development this year, although we could understand the temptation.
With five new projects unveiled this year -- two each in Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties and the big one in Clay County -- 2013 has been successful by any standard of measurement. When you consider that Oktibbeha County joined the Link this year and has already seen the benefits of the association, the spirit of optimism that prevailed Wednesday is to be expected.
In Lowndes County: CalStar Products, a sustainable material manufacturer bringing nearly 100 jobs, and Mississippi Steel Processing, a steel processing company bringing more than 50 jobs.
In Oktibbeha County: C Spire announced it will build a $22 million data-processing center at Mississippi State University's Thad Cochran Research Park, and Finally LLC, a filing and folder products manufacturer, is relocating to Starkville and will invest about $1 million in the venture.
In Clay County, Yokohama is building a tire manufacturing plant, which, by 2020, will be a $1.2 billion investment for the Japan-based business.
All told, these five new ventures represent an immediate commitment of $392 million in investments and 715 jobs for the Golden Triangle.
And while it is only right that we should celebrate that achievement, we should also recognize the need to press forward in aggressively pursuing more economic opportunities remains.
The Golden Triangle, despite its successes, does not operate in a vacuum and much of the success our area has seen over the past year has been duplicated and, in some cases, surpassed by other areas within Mississippi and beyond.
In 2013, Mississippi went from 30th to 16th in job creation. The state ranks ninth in private jobs, although manufacturing jobs lag behind at 38th.
Meanwhile, Alabama and Louisiana, our nearest competitors for jobs, have seen promising results on the job creation front as well.
Clearly, this is not the time to rest content in what we have achieved.
The success we have seen in 2013 should not be viewed as a finishing point, but as a means of building momentum to attract other jobs.
Nor should the "business" of attracting new jobs be left solely to the Link.
Cities and citizens play a role, too, because companies place value on such things as schools, public safety, housing and entertainment opportunities when choosing among options. Certainly, there are options as states and communities continue to compete aggressively for these businesses.
When we have failing school districts, increased crime or inadequate housing, our competitors have an advantage.
So as wonderful as 2013 has been, we should all answer the call to be informed and active in making our communities the kinds of places industries finds attractive.
The Link has made a big difference. The rest of us can, too.