October 6, 2009 9:18:00 AM
Tim Pratt -
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors Monday threw its official support behind a potential aerospace megasite project adjacent to Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
The Golden Triangle Global Industrial Aerospace Park would be located on about 2,500 acres just west of GTRA, north of Artesia Road and east of Guerry Road. The Columbus-Lowndes Development Link and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, which oversees the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority, are working with nearly a dozen municipalities and area landowners on the project.
The proposed site is made up of seven or eight properties, said Joe Higgins, president and CEO of the Link. Higgins expects deals to be reached with all property owners by the end of the week.
Oktibbeha supervisors Monday approved a memorandum of cooperation and collaboration with several other municipalities including, among others, the city of Starkville, Lowndes County, Columbus, West Point and Clay County, to endorse the aerospace megasite project.
"I think now we''re to the point where every municipality we''ve asked to approve (the memorandum) has," Higgins said. "The next step is securing control of the property and I would expect by the end of the week we would have that wrapped up."
Officials also are working to secure funding for the project through state and federal grants and loans. Those funds would be used to extend infrastructure, such as water and sewer, to the site. Then the Link and GSDP would try to market the site to consultants and companies in the aerospace industry.
The Golden Triangle already has an aerospace culture present, Higgins said, with Stark Aerospace, the Columbus Air Force Base, Aurora Flight Sciences and American Eurocopter, among others, all located in the area. Higgins also cited the engineering and aerospace programs at Mississippi State University.
"We''ve got the brains to support this kind of operation," Higgins said. "And they pay good, too."
The Link plans to unveil a master plan for the aerospace megasite Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. at East Mississippi Community College, Higgins said. There, citizens can see just what engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority and others involved with the project have in mind.
"If we are successful in doing what we''re trying to do here, it will have a regional impact," Higgins said. "It will impact the entire radius around it for labor, housing, economic development, everything."
The 2,500-acre site is now farmland and woods. Given its proximity to GTRA, Higgins believes the megasite also would benefit the airport.
"With a few infrastructure improvements, we could make (GTRA) one of the most viable commercial airports in the Southeast," Higgins said.