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Nearly 300 jobs created through new companies and expansions

Lincoln County makes room for more business, industry

BROOKHAVEN — In the last year, nearly 300 jobs have been created in Lincoln County, thanks to four new companies and two major expansions.

“Delphi just completed a $78-million expansion last year that added 130 jobs and completely retooled the facility, adding plastic injection molding,” said Chandler Russ, executive vice president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce. “Now, they’ve already begun an additional $11-million expansion, primarily with plastic injection molding and 500-ton presses. The work is ongoing and should be completed within 30 days. That will give Delphi a total of 600 jobs at this plant.”

The expansion comes around the same time that Delphi Corp., North America’s largest auto parts maker, announced plans to pare down 6,100 jobs.

“We’ve been fortunate in Brookhaven for Delphi to have a good mix of products with GM and additional business,” Russ said.

Last year, EPCO, producer of CO2 (carbon dioxide), announced it would invest $7 million and create 16 jobs in Lincoln County. Construction is complete and production has begun. Continental Carbonics, a maker of dry ice and a potential major client of EPCO, should begin construction by the end of the year for a facility that will add 45 jobs to the area.

Small Warehouse and Distribution Company has committed to build a 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot facility, which will create 15 jobs.

“We’re waiting on a decision from the company about whether or not they’ll need a railside piece of property,” said Russ.

Parkway, LLC, a joint venture of David Parker and Danny Dunaway, will add 30 jobs when construction on a new facility is complete. The company focuses on substation construction and will work closely with major power providers in the state.

Other major developments underway at this time include the relocation of the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Mississippi National Guard. When complete, both entities will move from facilities on Hwy. 51 to new buildings on Hwy. 84.

“Perhaps the biggest news is that we’re in the process of creating new industrial property,” said Russ. “We have six sites selected for a new industrial park, ranging in size from 500 to 1,500 acres. We secured a technical assistance grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration for $100,000, which will cover the engineering analysis of the sites. At the end of the study, probably six months from now, we’ll rank those sites based on cost, select one, and have the others for backup. If a large industry looking for 600 acres calls us, we’ll already have the information collected.”

The Industrial Development Foundation, a privately funded organization serving as an arm of the chamber of commerce, had initiated the search for a new industrial park last year.

“Our present park has only seven acres remaining,” said John Endicott, past chairman of IDF. “With most new industrial prospects requiring minimum 50-acre tracts, Brookhaven is essentially out of the race for new industry until new industrial property is located and made ready. Approximately 35% of the wages paid in Lincoln County are sourced from the industrial park. The contribution to the local economy is in excess of $274 million annually. The payback for a three to four million dollar investment is very good.”

According to the 2000 Census, Lincoln County grew 9.8%, adding nearly 3,500 residents to the county and making it one of the fastest growing regions in the state.

Last year, IDF formed four new working committees in an effort to move quickly on some much-needed specific agendas: industrial parks and sites; business and industry recruitment; workforce development and existing business and industry.

“The formation of the new working committees improved our workforce, made strides to secure additional industrial property, recruited business and industry, provided services to expand existing business and industry and assisted with the Rapid Response team for the closure of Auburn Sportswear,” Endicott said. “The IDF helped bring nearly $23 million in additional investment in the area.”

Nearly 500 people have been trained through a mobile training lab, initiated by the chamber primarily for small businesses that couldn’t populate an entire class at Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Co-Lin). Working in partnership with Co-Lin, diverse course offerings, from soft skills like Spanish and time management courses to OSHA, carpentry, even Microsoft packages, have been provided through the mobile training lab.

“The original plan was to try it for a year, but it has been very successful,” Russ said. “Our classes are full and we have a waiting list.”

The Southwest Mississippi Partnership, a 10-county volunteer economic development organization established in 1992, recently began work on a supersite.

“It’s similar to what has been done in Lee-Union-Pontotoc counties,” said Russ, 2002 president of the association. “That doesn’t negate the need for county or city-owned industrial parks. We want to have a site selected within the region that could hold the next Nissan-type project. It’s a way for southwest Mississippi to become engaged in the superproject solicitation that is ongoing.”

Last year, the partnership formed a legislative committee that collaborates on pressing issues with area lawmakers.

“Both the chamber and IDF passed resolutions supporting tort reform legislation,” said Russ. “It has been and will remain a hot topic.”

The partnership’s outreach program to counties without economic developers has been successful. Garrick Combs, a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi Economic Development Program, was recently hired by Franklin County as a full-time economic development professional.

“Amite County doesn’t have a professional economic developer, so the Board of Supervisors appointed a designee to sit on the board for the county,” said Russ. “We’ll help them as much as possible. Southwest Mississippi is a good solid place to do business.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-3392 or lwjeter@yahoo.com</a.

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