Thursday, August 25, 2005

Officials gather to boost Chickasaw

Staff Writer

Bill Renick, executive director of Marshall County Industrial Authority, said he is pleased with the unity shown by local, state and Congressional representatives, state agencies, and planning development districts to find money for infrastructure at the Expanded Chickasaw Trails Industrial Park.

The meeting August 10 was set to “bring together the proper people involved in different funding for infrastructure,” he said.

The group heard Gil Patterson, with the Atlanta office of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, tell which projects he thinks are eligible for his agency’s funds and how to go about the application process, Renick said.

IDA needs more sources of money to proceed with paving of Mt. Carmel Road and building a half-million gallon water storage tank, he said.

“It was a tremendous turnout,” Renick said.

The lineup was impressive. Representatives from the home offices of Congressman Roger Wicker, and Senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, and state representatives Jack Gadd, Kelvin Buck and Tommy Woods were present. Also present were Tim Weston, with Tennessee Valley Authority’s economic development department in Tupelo; Joe Geddie, director of North Mississippi Industrial Development Authority in West Point; Mike Armour, director of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) office in Tupelo; Bill Minor, commissioner with Mississippi Department of Transportation, and Bill Mobley with Mississippi Development Authority.

Locally, the Marshall County Board of Supervisors, Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ Deberry, and Byhalia Mayor Scooter Dempsey attended as well as key staff from those entities and the Chambers of Commerce.

Renick said IDA already has partial funding commitments from ARC and the state for the paving and water supply projects at Chickasaw.

“But we need to fill in some pretty good gaps,” he said. “We were trying to show Gil our cooperative spirit and what we are trying to do up there. When you can get an on-site visit from one of these groups...(you take it).”

Other key business recently concluded was noted by Renick and Minor.

The signing of an interlocal agreement between Marshall County IDA and MDOT just weeks ago paves the way for bonding authority that will allow MDOT to spend federal and state money on I-269. Then MDOT can take bids for I-269 construction on the leg connecting Collierville, Tenn. to I-55 at Hernando, Minor said.

He said similar agreements with DeSoto County allow for a early completion of I-269 through the both counties.

After a bid is awarded, prices are set at the bid price and I-269 construction costs will not be affected by increases in the cost of fuel and steel that have been trending upward, Minor said.

MDOT and the federal highway agency will pay off the bonds at a ratio of 20:80.

The passing of the federal highway bill by congress this year will secure funding for highway construction in Mississippi for the next four or five years, Minor said.

Renick said Northeast Mississippi Planning and Development Authority will prepare applications for funding for IDA.

“They are the ones who do the grunt work on applications and packaging of proposals,” he said.

Later in the day Wednesday, Aug. 10, Patterson and Renick heard a city proposal for development of Holly Springs Commons and from Dr. Kenneth Williams.

“We took advantage of having Patterson here in town and let him know about what we had on our minds,” Renick said. “It was a very good day.”

Renick said he is optimistic that Marshall County will get the attention it needs.

“Our hope is the people who have the authority to help us financially saw our commitment and cooperation,” he said. “I hope it will pay dividends.”

Renick said he would personally like to see IDA do more in economic development.

“My personal wishes are that we become an economic development entity and not just an industrial development entity,” he said. “I plan to with the board’s approval.”

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