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227-acre industrial park

Cornerstone eCommerce Park development makes progress

Starkville — The Cornerstone eCommerce Park is moving right along and officials expect to have infrastructure for the southern portion’s 120 acres completed by the end of the year.
David Thornell, executive director for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, said the new park — 227 acres in all — will be a cut above traditional industrial parks.

“It will have underground utilities and a landscaped entrance similar to the research park,” he said. “The infrastructure we’re completing in the southern portion can be easily extended to the northern portion of the park.

Located on the western side of town, near Mississippi 12 and Mississippi 25, the new park will offer overflow from the town’s technology park to those tenants wanting an upscale environment and access to research facilities.

“It’s a good linkage with the university,” he said. “The university and the community have come together with efforts to expand research.”

He says additionally, the Cornerstone Park can hopefully go with more traditional but light industries with connection to research at Mississippi State University and with the automotive industry. The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems that was put into place to do research for Nissan, but now used by others, is a key factor along with the Raspet Flight Laboratory at Bryan Airfield. The new commerce park is located across from the airfield.

Thornell says there was a need for the new park because the county’s old industrial park, built in the 1980s, and the research park were both full. “We have been at a great disadvantage even though the community has the assets that businesses look at in places to locate,” he said. “We were suffering from success with both parks full and this will be the answer; the missing piece of the puzzle.”

With more than $100 million of highway four-lane projects complete or near completion in the area, the Cornerstone Park will be better connected for markets, supplies and employees. U.S. 82 opened a four-lane bypass four weeks ago and a four-lane section of Mississippi 25 just to the west is scheduled for completion in 2006. Extensions of state Highways 12 and 389 are also nearby. The Partnership purchased the property five years ago and Thornell describes it as fertile territory for economic development.

“The property is well situated now with the highways open, like we knew it would be,” he said. “We feel there are companies who will come that are connected to the automotive and aviation industries. That’s a no brainer.”

The executive director also feels that distribution centers will benefit from the park’s location, along with technology businesses that don’t have to be in the research park but will benefit from being close by.

“The university can help us get our foot in the door with industries,” he added. “The new park has been needed for several years. It’s a building block of economic development.”

The Raspet Flight Lab, doing composite research and building lightweight aircraft, was a big key in attracting the Eurocopter Company two years ago.

“The types of employment we have are not prone to move offshore and we feel they’ll stay,” Thornell said. “They are good, steady companies and we will look to attract more of the same for the new park.”

Oktibbeha County has just under 45,000 residents and the City of Starkville has 25,000 with both seeing growth. The university, with 16,000 students, is the area’s largest employer with more than 4,000 workers. That is followed by a customer call center with 550 employees and Oktibbeha County Hospital with 500.

The Partnership was formed in April 2001 and includes the functions of economic development, tourism and the chamber of commerce. Thornell, who’s been onboard for three-and-a-half years, said there are three separate boards that pull together for the good of the area.

The Oktibbeha Economic Development Authority contracts with the Partnership to carry out the mission of facilitating job creation and retention in the county. The Partnership is tasked with procuring, developing, managing and maintaining property and facilities for new and expanding enterprises, providing services to existing businesses and industries, and actively supporting efforts to recruit new businesses and industries.

“The Partnership is building a more prosperous Starkville area by improving conditions which affect the economic well-being of the business community and stimulating the creation and preservation of desirable jobs,” Thornell said. “This is conducted in harmony with efforts to create and maintain an atmosphere that supports the highest quality lifestyle.”

The group’s Web site boasts that Starkville offers a well-rounded, thriving culture that sets a new standard in commerce, education, technology and lifestyle. With Mississippi’s first research and technology park located adjacent to Mississippi State University, one of the nation’s top research universities, the area is one of the South’s preferred small-market, high-technology locations.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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