Clinton Mayor Rosemary Aultman very much wants the Mississippi Department of Revenue to move its headquarters to the former WorldCom headquarters, now South Pointe Business Park.
What Aultman says she doesn’t want, however, is for legislative politics to decide the outcome. If the DOR moves to Clinton’s South Pointe, she wants her town to win the competition on its merits — not through political muscling at the Capitol, she said at a press conference Tuesday morning in the lobby of the main building of the South Pointe complex.
“Let’s make the process work,” she said, referring to a Request-for-Proposals competition underway between South Pointe, downtown Jackson’s Landmark Center and Ergon Properties’ Diversified Technologies complex in Ridgeland. The properties are finalists in competing for a multi-year lease of at least 175,000 square-feet, though the winner may have to spend as much as $50 a square-foot to make the selected building compatible with DOR’s needs.
With final best offers due in the next two weeks, a selection could be made as soon as early March. In the meantime, though, legislators are making their preferences known through a pair of contrasting bills. One passed the House designating South Pointe as the new DOR home and the other passed the Senate designating the Landmark Center.
Should either bill clear both houses and gain Gov. Phil Bryant’s s signature, the RFP would become moot, according to Kevin Upchurch, director of the Department of Finance and Administration, the state’s property management arm.
But should the bills die in the legislative process, the decision on the new Department of Revenue home would default to an RFP committee made up of representatives of the DOR and the Department of Finance & Administration.
That’s the outcome Mayor Aultman wants. “Let them decide which is the best facility. Frankly, we are comfortable South Pointe is the best facility,” she said, reciting a list of features and amenities that include ample meeting space, a cafeteria, landscaped grounds including a walking trail, plentiful parking and easy access off Interstate-20.
Much is at stake for Jackson and Clinton in selection of the DOR headquarters. Downtown Jackson sees a move by the DOR into the now-vacant Landmark Center as a way to stave off a Central Business District office vacancy rate heading toward 40 percent. For Clinton, gaining 500 employees would offset the loss of several hundred ADP employees whose jobs have been shifted to Augusta, Ga.
Ted Duckworth, whose firm Duckworth Realty handles leasing for South Pointe, joined the Clinton mayor in hoping that a straight-up RFP competition rather than politics settles the Department of Revenue HQ issue. “It’s hard to compete against politics,” Duckworth said.