By CARL SMITH
Representatives from Oktibbeha, Lowndes and Clay counties will unveil initial plans for a new regional development initiative 2 p.m. Sept. 14 at East Mississippi Community College’s Lyceum Building in Mayhew.
Oktibbeha County representatives associated with the project would not reveal specifics about the initiative before the meeting but did say the EMCC public forum will discuss organizing, funding and implementing the consortium. The cost of the proposed development group, its funding sources and potential start date are still unknown.
In July, economic developers announced the formation of a steering committee representing the three counties charged with developing a partnership proposal by mid-September. Committee members include Robbie Robinson, a retired Clay County chancery clerk and board member for the Columbus-Lowndes LINK and West Point-Clay County Community Growth Alliance, and Jackie Edwards, Growth Alliance co-chair (Clay County); attorney Gordon Flowers and Jim McAlexander, LINK board president (Lowndes County); and Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Marvell Howard, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and Oktibbeha County Economic Development Agency Chairman Jack Wallace (Oktibbeha County).
“We’ll have a lot of specifics on (Sept. 14). We really want to lay out plans for the vision and intention that the steering committee has for true regional development,” Howard said. “There are some time schedules built into (this proposal) and there certain marks we want to hit at specific times (if the project goes forward). Everybody really went into this process with the mindset that this would be something very positive for the region.”
Wiseman said the potential endeavor could establish a level of regional cooperation the Golden Triangle has never experienced.
“I think this effort is seen as an opportunity for the Golden Triangle to win and to win bigger than any one community can do on its own. This could allow each community to build upon its own strengths with the strength of the entire region,” he said. “No one community has everything in terms of assets that attract economic development. By combining the assets of the entire Golden Triangle, we will all benefit.”
In a release issued by the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, Wallace said the Golden Triangle is set to become the focal point for economic development in the state. Wallace was unavailable for a direct comment outside of the release Thursday.
The pursuit of a new tri-county economic development authority comes only four months after the West Point-Clay County Community Growth Alliance and the Columbus-Lowndes LINK signed a three-year affiliation agreement which kept the Growth Alliance as West Point’s and Clay County’s chamber of commerce, while placing all economic development responsibility with the LINK. LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins was unavailable for comment Thursday.