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Details of Golden Triangle regional economic development agency coming Friday

September 10th, 2012 No comments

Golden Triangle officials involved in the possible formation of a regional economic development organization self-imposed a Sept. 14 deadline to either come up with something or abandon the idea.

It appears they’ve come up with something.

Whatever that is will be unveiled Friday at 2 p.m. on the campus of East Central Mississippi Community College.

Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman told the Mississippi Business Journal earlier this summer that regional organizations would be a requirement moving forward for communities the size of Starkville, West Point and Columbus, if they wanted to compete for economic development mega-projects like Blue Springs’ Toyota plant.

“Our best opportunities lie in cooperation,” Wiseman said then.

This isn’t the first swing the three communities have taken at something like this. The Golden Triangle Regional Airport was a joint effort. But in the early 1970s, each county asked voters to approve a bond issue that would fund an industrial park to serve the entire area. Clay County voters approved it; voters in Lowndes and Oktibbeha did not.

Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link, said in July that his organization would pay some role in getting a regional outfit operational. Higgins made a lot of the same points Wiseman did – combining the workforces of three counties would better get the attention of a big prospect than would the smallish workforce of one. More important than that, he said, is that when Mississippi’s congressional delegation is asked for help – financial or otherwise – on a particular project, they want to see more than one community doing the heavy lifting.

A few of the big questions that will need to be answered Friday is how the new organization will be funded, how it will be governed and who will lead the transition. Figuring out how to merge the mission of the new organization with the existing, individual economic development agencies will be another issue that requires attention.