Thursday, November 24, 2005

Industrial prospects looking at Marshall

By BARRY BURLESON
Editor

Bill Renick is baiting a lot of hooks these days in hopes of reeling in new jobs.

Renick, executive director of the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority, focused on the organization’s new theme, “Positioned for Progress,” when talking at the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce meeting last week.

He said in the last four months, IDA has prepared proposals for companies that could bring more than a half a billion dollars in investment to the county and 2,500 to 3,000 jobs.

“Naturally, we will not land all of these,” Renick said. “But we’re going to put out as many hooks as we can and try to catch as many fish as we can.”

He also called Marshall County “a hot potato” when it comes to economic development.

He said one day last week he was working on a proposal for a company interested in locating in Byhalia and by the time he got back to his office in Holly Springs, he had two more proposals on his desk to work on.

“One is monstrous,” Renick said. “It would be major investment – not in the half a billion I mentioned earlier.

“We are at that point. Anytime projects are being thought of, we are getting the look. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens by a lot of people doing the right things.”

He particularly praised the IDA board for its aggressiveness, particularly in having the foresight to establish Chickasaw Trails Industrial Park (2,600 acres) and its infrastructure in the northwest portion of the county.

“Your IDA board had guts to build a sewer system into a rural area and spend over a million dollars to do that,” Renick said. “That’s the major reason we’re getting looks.”

Renick passed out maps featuring the planned location of I-269 through Marshall County. The interstate highway will dissect Chickasaw Trails.

He said Butch Brown, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, has been quoted as calling it “the hottest piece of economic development property in the state” due to its location, infrastructure and highway access.

And the time frame in building I-269 is being put on a faster speed due to the teamwork of such entities as the IDA, the board of supervisors and legislators.

“The usual problem is financing,” Renick said.

But IDA, with its bonding authority, had the foresight to approach MDOT with the question, “what can we do to speed it up?”

Brown’s response was “furnish the money.”

The cost of I-269 just through Marshall County is estimated at $200 million.

“IDA proposed the possibility of Marshall County issuing bonds to get the money to build 269, and MDOT would use its reserves to pay the bonds back,” Renick said. “The bonding people called it a wonderful idea.”

IDA then recommended to the board of supervisors that the county enter into the agreement to issue the bonds.

“This means I-269 in Marshall County will probably be finished three to five years quicker than it would have been done,” he said.

“A great team effort made all this happen.”

Renick also stressed the human element involved in recruiting new industry and business.

“The attitude of our people can be one of our greatest economic tools,” he said. “You have to sell human capital.

“The clerk at the convenience store can make all the difference in the world with the attitude they display.

“We all have to stay positive about Marshall County. Your attitude toward your community makes a big difference.”

Renick said the new IDA web site – marshallcoms.com – is taking shape and will be “so important in our efforts.”

“We’ve got a closet full of gold shovels (at the IDA building), and we’re looking forward to getting them out and digging some dirt (for groundbreakings),” Renick said.

“We believe we’re in the right position. I’m terribly, terribly excited about what I’m doing here. I’m loving every minute of it.”

The luncheon included other activities and announcements. Rep. Tommy Woods led the blessing. Sheriff Kenny Dickerson and his crew cooked the fish and fixings. Blaine Tooley, new youth and choir director at Byhalia United Methodist Church, sang patriotic songs.

The meeting was held at Northcentral Mississippi Electric Power Association. Kevin Doddridge introduced Renick and also praised Northcentral crews who “did a fantastic job of storm relief” in coastal areas hit by hurricanes.

“I’m bragging on them because they deserve it,” Doddridge said. “We’re always the first called.

“And our men performed six plus weeks of storm relief with no injuries”

He said Northcentral has also experienced a record year of growth.

“It’s a very important time for our community,” Doddridge said. “Just look right around us.”

Sarah Sawyer, executive director of the Byhalia Chamber, announced the Holiday Open House at participating businesses Nov. 18-Dec. 2, and the Tree Lighting/Chili Supper at the fire station on Dec. 2. The Holiday Lighting Contest will be judged December 14 and includes residential and commercial competition.

Susan Jordan, executive director of the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce, said applications are being taken for the Leadership Plenty Class of 2006. There will be a retreat in January, and a group meeting once a month through June.

“Get involved,” Jordan said. “Dedicate your time and efforts.

“It’s good networking, and it’s a good way to give back to your county.”

About 30 participants will be accepted. Call Jordan at 662-252-2943 or Sawyer at 662-838-8127 about applications.


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