Brookhaven — Lincoln County business leaders are accelerating plans to develop a 400-acre business park acquired last year solely with local funds.
The Chamber’s Vision Partnership Council, established in 1998, raised $500,000 of the $4-million purchase price for the new park, located along Interstate 55 behind the Home Depot that opened last year in Brookhaven. A study funded by the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) identified the site as one of the top three locations for development in Lincoln County.
To facilitate the park’s acquisition and development, the City of Brookhaven, Lincoln County, Brookhaven Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Foundation (IDF) formed a new partnership, the Brookhaven Lincoln Economic Development Alliance. The group charged with developing and marketing the park includes two city representatives, two county representatives, IDF president Bill Sones and Cliff Brumfield, executive vice president of the chamber, IDF and the Alliance.
“This process has brought our local elected leaders and private business leaders closer together and is working very well,” said Brumfield.
Brumfield said the group hopes to attract moderate size companies, employing 80 to 120, and a larger employer in industries ranging from high-tech distribution centers to cutting-edge light manufacturing companies that provide better paying jobs for the area’s existing skilled labor base.
“We’ve had a number of inquiries about the park,” he said. “However, these will become more concrete as infrastructure comes into place regarding roads, water and sewer. We recently submitted a pre-application to the EDA for funds to assist with infrastructure improvements, and have just received an invitation from EDA for a full application, which has made us very optimistic for funding.”
To validate their financial support, earlier this month, “the City of Brookhaven and the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors both voted unanimously to move forward in committing up to $2.2 million in funding each to match EDA monies in developing the park.”
As a result, development of the park is several years ahead of similar developments, said Brumfield.
“We just bought the land last year, and will likely have our phase one infrastructure developments under construction in a matter of months,” he said. “A full-blown wetlands analysis and an environmental review have already been completed. We’ve performed preliminary engineering on the layout of the roads, water and sewer improvements and other infrastructure needs.”
Brumfield said the group anticipates starting dirt work within the next six months and being in full construction mode next spring.
“The study not only helped us identify the best location for the park, it also helped us put on the table all the different drivers for a new business park, which helped solidify the amenities the park should and will have, such as immediate interstate proximity, rail service, more than adequate electrical power, close proximity to major markets, available skilled labor and close access to clusters of our target industry base,” said Brumfield.
The population of the small city, strategically located two hours north of New Orleans and one hour south of Jackson, has grown significantly to 12,000; Lincoln County has 35,000 residents. The unemployment rate for the county has typically been among the lowest in south Mississippi.
“However, when you draw a 30-mile radius around Lincoln County, you quickly pick up large numbers of available skilled individuals for employment,” said Brumfield.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College, the area’s main training partner in neighboring Wesson, offers comprehensive post-secondary vocational-technical education and training through adult night classes and is involved in the industrial training program through which an industry locating, expanding, or diversifying in Lincoln County receives job specific training for its employees. “Working with the college has paid huge dividends in helping to assist our existing industry base continue to grow,” said Brumfield.
No industrial buildings remain available, and Brumfield said a contract is in the works for the sole 40-acre site available in IDF’s two industrial parks. (The 607-acre Industrial Park One has an adjacent airport; the 50-acre Industrial Park Two is located adjacent to Interstate 55.)
“The strong relationship between our city, county, chamber and IDF helped make this project a success much more quickly than is typical,” said Brumfield. “Oftentimes, a community will identify a piece of dirt in the county, spend years marketing their dirt like every other community development organization. By collaborating on the best location, raising funds and gathering public support, then ultimately buying an developing the site, we were able to strengthen these relationships and set the stage to work closer together in the future when a larger task develops, such as landing our first prospect. It’s been said that anything can be done as long as no one individual takes credit for it. Our partnership has been an all for one endeavor. For us in Lincoln County, this is the biggest business development we’ve seen in many years.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.