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Madison County development leaders keeping up with rapid pace of growth

With new prospects every month, readiness the focus

The groundwork was laid years ago for Madison County’s commercial and industrial growth; now it’s up to current economic development leaders to keep up with the rapid pace of the state’s fastest-growing county.

“We’re reaping what they sowed, and we want to continue to sow for future generations,” said Tim Coursey, executive director of the Madison County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA). “The activity level increases every month. We’ve got more prospects every month. It’s a snowball effect.”

A good problem to have, but a challenge nevertheless. With land selling out in the county’s existing parks, one of MCEDA’s biggest projects is acquiring more land. The authority is looking at several sites for another industrial park and is already developing 90 acres of 16th section land on both sides the Central Mississippi Industrial Park in Gluckstadt. A medical products distribution company has signed an agreement to move in, said Coursey.

Radiating around Nissan is a cluster of approximately 30 auto-related companies. The latest was PK USA, a Japanese automotive supplier with a 39,400-square-foot facility in Canton that was formerly part of Oxford Automotive. Two logistical companies are looking at Madison County, as well as a Tier 1 supplier with an option on property and a Tier 2 supplier that is close to closing a deal, said Coursey, who would not reveal names.

“We haven’t seen half of what the automotive cluster can bring in with other types of businesses that spin off from it,” said Coursey. “You can look at other communities to understand what will happen. We’re bound and determined to make sure we are prepared for that.”

Working together

Working hand in glove with MCEDA to attract these and other businesses is the privately-funded, politically active Madison County Foundation (MCF), a group that gets the private sector involved in economic development. MCF focuses the future and building infrastructure so people can continue to invest and so that Madison County can be a place where people continue to want to live, said MCF president Elizabeth Raley. Gathering and compiling data, financially supporting school bond polls and lobbying in Washington are ways MCF builds the building blocks for MCEDA to use when recruiting new industry to the county, she said.

“We are privately funded and we can use private dollars from leaders in the community to help attract industry, to lobby Washington and to help elected officials,” said Raley.
MCF members travel to Washington each year in February and September to seek state and federal funding for various projects that are part of a long-range plan to accommodate Madison County’s growth. On the most recent trip, MCF continued to promote six projects in Flora, Madison, Ridgeland and the area surrounding the Nissan plant. These include:

• U.S. 51/SR 43 Connector Road, a four-lane road beginning at U.S. 51 at the Nissan Parkway and extending to Mississippi 43 in Canton,

• Mississippi 22 Reconstruction from Canton to Flora,

• Madison/Ridgeland I-55 Interchange,

• Reconstruction of the Gluckstadt Interchange on I-55 North,

• A new Reunion Parkway from U.S. 51 at Green Oak Lane to Mississippi 463, and

• Funding for the Madison County Wastewater Authority — $6 million for FY06.

In a letter to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Canton Mayor Fred Esco Jr. said these projects are fully supported by the City of Canton.

“With the expected increase in traffic and residents in the near future, each project within the Foundation’s primary areas of request will solve some very serious problems that we have as a county,” wrote Esco. All of these projects have been funded at various stages.

Looking north

MCEDA and MCF are also looking at economic development for Northeast Madison County, which covers 300 square miles but is not densely populated. Last November, MCEDA sponsored a bus tour of the Tellico Reservoir area south of Knoxville, Tenn. The group of 30 elected officials, government representatives, farmers, educators and others from North Madison County saw how the Tellico Reservoir has become a mixed-use development of light industrial and residential. One possibility for northern Madison County is to create a lake that would entice people and commercial development to move there and live and work around the water.

Since the tour, MCEDA has hosted seven public meetings to gather input from residents there. “We want to put (residents) in a position of being in charge of their own destiny,” said Coursey. “Instead of being run over by development, they can get involved and organized. They can shape and model how it will look in the future, and hopefully it will look like they want it to and not like someone who’s not from here.”

MCEDA is in the process of finishing up a draft of everything that was heard and the needs that were presented. The next step is an economic analysis of the area. Included in MCF’s Washington trip was a request for $500,000 for a feasibility study to determine the best use of the land for the community. Funding has not been approved yet.

Population explosion

New business and residential occupants helped push Madison County’s tax revenue over the $1 billion last year. Take a drive through southern Madison County, and you’ll see ground being broken for one new subdivision after another, many of them containing upscale homes from $300,000 and up. Madison County’s median household income stands at around $53,000 and is expected to be more than $63,000 by 2009. The population is projected to be nearly 88,000 by 2009, up from was 53,794 in 1990.

Meanwhile, MCEDA continues to field calls from companies interested in Madison County. Homegrown small- and medium-sized companies are streaming in, and Coursey said the county is on the radar of a computer data backup facility that is considering a move to the metro area. In the event of a catastrophe, clients could run their companies remotely from the data center and have backups. The county also hopes to be on the short list for the widely-publicized national bio-agri defense facility. Landing that would make the metro area one of the largest bio medical research clusters in the country.

“There’s going to be nothing like it,” said Coursey. “We’ll have more of those related companies and secondary businesses than anywhere else in the country if we land that — all the way from a vaccine producer to companies that make glassware and rubber gloves.”

Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Ingebretsen at kelly@msbusiness.com.

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