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Communities eye second-tier automotive companies

Forecast 2001: North Mississippi

Even though Central Mississippi is gaining a lot of attention for Nissan’s planned $930-million automotive plant and its telecommunications activity, North Mississippi’s economic outlook for 2001 is rosy, too.

“The longer-term outlook is excellent for the state as a whole, and for areas with high growth potential such as the Tupelo-Golden Triangle-Meridian crescent,” said Dr. Malcolm Portera, president of Mississippi State University. “I’m confident that the trend line for economic development and increased prosperity in our region over the next few years is strongly upward, even though we may very well be seeing the start of a national economic slowdown.”

‘Good mix’ considering DeSoto County

A “good mix” of warehousing and distribution-related companies, along with several manufacturers, are looking at DeSoto County this year, said Jim Flanagan, president of the DeSoto County Economic Development Council.

“We have quite a diversified mix of industrial prospects,” he said. “We have been short-listed on several projects, but decisions will not be forthcoming until after the first of the year.”

Already on the drawing board:

• Construction will continue on Cogentrix’ $300-million, 800-megawatt power plant on a 40-acre site near the intersections of Stateline and Tulane Roads in Southaven. The plant will employ 300 temporary construction workers and 25 permanent employees with an estimated $1.3-million payroll when it opens in 2002.

• A 250,000-square-foot distribution hub is underway on a 30-acre site at DeSoto Center Business Park East, just south of Church Road and west of Interstate 55 in Southaven by Chicago-based W.W. Grainger, a leading provider of maintenance, repair and operating supplies. When the facility opens in mid-2002, approximately 200 jobs will be created.

Advanced Education Center will help business

Marketing the region’s Advanced Education Center (AEC) is high on the agenda for 2001, said David Rumbarger, president of the Community Development Foundation (CDF)in Tupelo. “From that, all else will flow,” he said. “The new education center will help new and existing industry promote workforce training and productivity by upgrading skills and abilities.”

A joint venture of the University of Mississippi, Mississippi University for Women and Itawamba Community College — the first time three higher education institutions have joined forces — the new $13-million training center is located on the campus of ICC on land donated by the city of Tupelo. Board members of CDF are looking at “future focus campaigns,” campaigns funded by private businesses to market the center more aggressively, Rumbarger said.

Even though Tecumseh is closing non-productive plants around the country, the company is expanding its presence in Lee County, and will add 600 jobs this year, Rumbarger said.

Corinth-Alcorn County addressing bandwidth issues

Kimberly Clark’s $73-million expansion should be operational soon, and the National Park Service should begin construction of the Civil War Interpretive Center later this year, said Charles Gulotta, president of The Alliance, an economic development organization in Corinth.

“We are working diligently to study and interpret our telecommunication band width issues,” he said. “The Tennessee Valley Authority, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the CREATE Foundation, the Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi and many local development agencies are convinced that this issue is worthy of an in-depth study.”

Construction of the new 14,000-square-foot Federal Express terminal at the South Corinth-Alcorn Industrial Park is nearly complete, with a grand opening scheduled within the next few months. The company already has about 30 employees on its payroll, and has been operating from temporary facilities.

Power generation plant construction set to begin

Construction of two generator projects — Calpine Eastern and Cogentrix — should begin in the first quarter of 2001 in northeast Lowndes County near Caledonia, said Charleigh Ford, executive director of the Columbus Lowndes County Economic Development Association (CLEDA). When complete, each plant will harbor 800 megawatts of generating capacity. Combined with Enron, a $140-million plant already underway, the plants represent a combined investment of approximately $1 billion. During the two-year construction phase, up to 600 people will work at both plant sites. When complete, each plant will employ approximately 25 engineers and technicians.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or (601) 853-3967.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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