By STEVEN NALLEY
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership Board named a headhunter for an Oktibbeha County economic developer and revealed the possibility of a new, central Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority office at its meeting Thursday.
GSDP Board Chairman Steve Langston said this headhunter, Jorgenson Consulting, was the same company that brought Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins to what was then the Columbus-Lowndes Development LINK. Based in North Carolina, Jorgenson Consulting has clients across the country and more than 20 years of experience, according to its website.
“We expect a good person to come out of that,” Langston said. “They are searching nationally. (We hope the hire will) take place very quickly, (but) we don’t have an exact date.”
Golden Triangle Regional Airport Director Mike Hainsey asked what the end result of the LINK’s partnership with Oktibbeha County will be. Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority President Jack Wallace then said the current Golden Triangle LINK partnership will evolve in two or three years into a new Golden Triangle Regional Development Authority, and a new office complex may come with that evolution.
“When (the GTRDA is) developed, a new board will then decide whether ... they want to leave their present office in the current building in Columbus or ... build a new office building to accommodate the nine-member staff somewhere in the Golden Triangle airport area,” Wallace said. “It could be at the airport, it could be around 4-County (Electric Power Association) land, but (it would be) somewhere near the airport to give us a more central location.”
Langston said it is important to note while the partnership will strengthen the GSDP’s economic development, the LINK will not interfere with the Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau or the Starkville Chamber of Commerce.
“There is emphasis on not doing anything to pull away from community development efforts,” Langston said. “Our (GSDP) has been (made of) three legs. We have two strong legs with the chamber and the CVB. There is great effort being made to make sure we don’t pull any strength from those two legs. (The changes exist) to make the third leg, the economic development, strong.”
Langston said the Golden Triangle LINK’s first meeting with its four new board members representing Oktibbeha County — Langston, Coldwell Banker Associate Broker Michelle Amos, Cadence Bank CAO Mark Abernathy and retired businessperson Zelma Talley — went smoothly. He said he and Amos would also serve on an executive committee within the board of directors, and one notable limitation prevented such candidates as Wallace from being selected.
“This is a private board, and people who have public money cannot be on this board,” Langston said. “OCEDA has been our vehicle for economic development for (years, but) because of public monies received there, people like Jack are not able to (be selected).”
The board also heard several reports from Jennifer Gregory, GSDP chief operating officer, and Austin Shafer, GSDP vice president for membership and the chamber of commerce. One new initiative Shafer announced is the Twitter hashtag #SantaShopsStarkville for local Christmas shoppers.
“When they buy a product in Starkville, (they can) snap a picture and send us that on Twitter,” Shafer said. “We are going to track that and give away two Gator Bowl tickets (to two random #SantaShopsStarkville participants.)”
Shafer also said the GSDP banquet will be held Feb. 7 at the Hunter Henry Center, with tickets likely to become available at the end of December. Langston said he wants to ensure that the GSDP’s new partners in Lowndes and Columbus are able to attend.