August 11, 2010 10:02:00 AM
Kristin Mamrack -
"This is an incredible plan," Earl F. Gohl, federal co-chair for the Appalachian Regional Commission, Tuesday said of the Golden Triangle Industrial Park. "This is what we look for every place we go and we don''t always find it. The key to it is everybody having a piece of it."
As part of a state-wide tour, Gohl met with elected officials and community leaders from Columbus and Lowndes County, Starkville and Oktibbeha County at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport.
Columbus-Lowndes Link CEO Joe Higgins spoke to Gohl about the industrial park -- which houses Paccar, Stark Aerospace, Aurora, Severstal -- and the Golden Triangle Global Industrial Aerospace Park, on which officials currently are investing $17.5 million in water and sewer infrastructure.
And he thanked the ARC for "money, technical assistance and help and support in creating and growing our communities."
Gohl explained ARC involvement is a "partnership between state and federal government."
"It''s a partnership that''s working well for us," Higgins responded.
"This is evolving into a job creator for the region out here," Higgins said of the about 7,000-acre industrial park. "And all of these projects are directly or indirectly related to (ARC) for funding."
"Everything we do goes back to ARC," said Jon Maynard, president of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, referring to Starkville as the "nerd corner of the Golden Triangle" for its research park and researchers at Mississippi State University. "We move together as an entire region. These are the things we''re doing around here and we''re probably going to see funding that will cross political boundaries."
"The most important thing is you all are a piece of it," Gohl told the gathered officials, which included Columbus Mayor Robert Smith, Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President and District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard, Mississippi University for Women Interim President and Link board Chairwoman Allegra Brigham, Industrial Development Authority President Thomas Lee, and others.
"We''re about success," said Gohl. "That''s what our mission is, to work to increase per-capita incomes and competitiveness of regions. Partnerships increase the likelihood of success. The mission is jobs and growth for the region. That''s how we succeed. That''s how you succeed.
"My attitude is it''s not government money to spend," he added, referring to funding from the ARC, a 45-year-old organization. "These are valuable resources taxpayers generate every year. We need to invest it like it''s our own money."
Gohl praised the industrial park as evidence of the regional spirit of cooperation he cited as the key to success.
"It probably seems really frustrating, really challenging, really hard and economic development is," he said. "But this is an incredibly impressive footprint. To keep this moving now shows what you can do when things get better."
"We''re trying to position ourselves now for when things get better," Higgins said, noting the park site will hold about 15 million square footage of facilities and officials expect soon to purchase an additional 1,200 acres south of the park.