By CARL SMITH
Coldwell Banker Associate Broker Michelle Amos and Greater Starkville Development Partnership Board President Steve Langston will represent Oktibbeha County interests on the Golden Triangle Development LINK Executive Board, LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said Wednesday.
Higgins’ announcement followed a meeting where Amos and Langston, along with Cadence Bank CAO Mark Abernathy and retired businessperson Zelma Talley, were introduced as the county’s four representatives for the LINK Board of Directors.
In October, the primary governing and economic development bodies of Oktibbeha County entered into an interim three-year contract with the LINK, charging the Columbus-based entity with local economic development. The agreement with the LINK, which previously represented Lowndes and Clay counties’ economic development interests, serves as an interim regional development agreement while Golden Triangle officials work to establish the Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority, a more-permanent entity.
New board executive board members will meet again in December for an orientation luncheon, Higgins said.
The LINK also approved a $1.64 million operating budget Wednesday, split between $350,000 each from Oktibbeha and Clay counties and $943,150 from Lowndes County. Almost $1 million is budgeted for personnel expenses, while almost $700,000 is set aside for programs, overhead and special expenses.
The organization also formally approved bylaws Wednesday allowing for the expansion of its board of directors and executive board, and OK’d a rebranding initiative which renames the group from its previous Columbus-Lowndes Development LINK moniker.
Higgins said the LINK is currently working with Jorgenson Consulting, a recruitment firm with offices in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland and North Carolina, to fill the role of Oktibbeha County’s primary economic developer within the organization. The position, formally listed as vice president of the LINK/Starkville-Oktibbeha on the firm’s website, seeks candidates that will solicit industries for the county, develop expansion and retention opportunities, work with state and regional economic development agencies and serve as project manager to ensure client needs are met during all stages of attraction. The future vice president will work closely with Higgins and the LINK for the organization’s tri-county development goals.
Applicants will be evaluated by the firm; qualified individuals will be invited to participate in the next phase of the selection process.
“The three counties are so much stronger when marketed together than when they were marketed individually. Doing what I do, it’s hard to sit back and not get excited when look at the opportunities and possibilities. We’re not talking about years (for success); we’re talking about getting things rolling here quickly,” Langston said. “This is an organization that can truly get the best and most out of anything we can conceive. We’re developing the strongest possible organization to bring success to the Golden Triangle.”
Abernathy said entrusting local economic development to Higgins was an easy idea to support. By marketing Oktibbeha County’s strengths — a world-class land-grant institution and strong quality of life — on top of what the entire Golden Triangle brings to the table, he said the sky is the limit for success.
“The strengths that each county brings are so unique, and the track record Joe Higgins has for telling his areas’ stories and taking their strengths to make it something employers want to be part of is out of this world. Whether it comes to creating value for shareholders or showing off an area’s attractive quality of life, Joe is fantastic,” he said. “We are fortunate to have a land-grant institution that has an engineering reputation in the nation that is second to none. For us to get in there and help the university transfer that knowledge to economic development, it’s such an obviously simple thing for us to be doing that will pay off very well.
“When you combine this area’s strengths, I think the Golden Triangle is kind of a secret, untold story,” Abernathy added. “When others see it and feel it, I think that will lead to a lot of success.”