March 8, 2010 9:47:00 AM
In 2008, Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins called for the area to keep "feeding the monster" -- the "monster" being industrial development. It''s paid off.
And in a measure of "dollars invested and deals" secured, Columbus has been listed as a top micropolitan area for 2009 by Site Selection magazine. The city is ranked No. 7 by the publication, which focuses on corporate real estate strategy and economic development. The city climbed from its No. 14 slot in 2008.
In 2009, the Link helped secure $125 million to $150 million in new investments and 150 new jobs.
And when Policom, which ranks 574 micropolitan areas in the United States, releases its rankings this spring, Higgins expects Columbus to move up past the No. 100 slot it held last year.
In 2004, Columbus was ranked 374th; in 2005, the city was No. 322; in 2006, Columbus climbed to 257. By 2007, Columbus was ranked 211; in 2008, the city was ranked 174.
"In last six years, we''ve probably been in the top 6 percent of positive-performing micropolitans in the country," Higgins noted.
The Link was formed in 2003, joining economic development efforts with the area chamber of commerce.
Policom defines a micropolitan as containing an urbanized area with more than 10,000 people but less than 50,000. To determine rankings, the company calculates growth rates, consistency trends, industry averages and other factors.
Since its inception, the Link has worked toward billions of dollars in facilities being built in Lowndes County, bringing about more than 6,000 jobs.
The big news of 2009 was the promotion and expansion of the Lowndes County Industrial Park into the Golden Triangle Regional Industrial Aerospace Park.
More than $100 million of infrastructure work already has gone into the site, an expansion of the existing industrial park on Highway 82 west of Columbus.
Existing resources -- the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, railways, highways and the Tennessee Tombigbee River -- are expected to attract more companies in the expanding aerospace industry.
Aerospace manufacturers American Eurocopter, Stark Aviation and Aurora Flight Sciences already occupy some of the site''s 2,500 publicly owned acres and employ about 600 workers.
TOP MICROPOLITANS AT A GLANCE