Thursday, April 5, 2007
Marshall wants Toyota spin-offs
By SUE WATSON
The Marshall County Board of Supervisors decided to get involved with planning meetings in Tupelo in hopes of securing its share of the spin-off industry expected from Toyota’s assembly plant in Union County.
Supervisors meet this week with the Industrial Development Authority board of directors and other delegations to sort out the kinds of projects the county and municipalities think they can land. Nearby counties are lining up for nearly 80 supplier companies that are likely to locate in the region in the next 10 years.
IDA executive director Bill Renick invited the board of supervisors to this week’s IDA meeting and to plan some sites near the Highway 78 corridor.
“The closer to 78 (that sites are available) the more likely they are to get some looks,” he said.
Tier One sites will be located closer to the Wellspring assembly site where they will be able to ship supply parts on a 24-hour basis, Renick said. Tier Two companies will be located further away and likely supply Tier One, while Tier Three industries will probably supply Tier Two industries.
Although there are two straight shots to Chickasaw Trails Industrial Area, Cayce and Highway 309, Renick said Byhalia, Holly Springs and Potts Camp should be popular positions for companies.
“IDA is working on a very aggressive plan for Marshall County,” Renick said. “We’re going to have to make some decisions, which never have been made. This (growth from Toyota) will go on for 20, 30, 40, 50 years, for the rest of our lifetimes.”
The West Holly Springs exit will become more and more important, he said.
“We have a lot going on and we’re at a place where we’re going to have to move to the next level for Marshall County or remain at status quo,” Renick added.
Using Toyota’s Camry assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky., as an example, Renick said the plant’s 59 suppliers are scattered all over Kentucky and in parts of Tennessee.
“This is a monstrous, monstrous deal for North Mississippi,” he said. “Our neighbors (surrounding counties) are competing for these projects.”
Following Renick’s public discussion of the project and an executive session on other projects, county consultant Gary Anderson announced that the Mississippi Legislature, through the Department of Health, allocated $2 million for a 16-bed crisis intervention center.
The project will bring about 60 new jobs to Marshall County and provide both inpatient and outpatient care, he said.
Request for funds for a railroad overpass in Byhalia and Potts Camp, “fell by the wayside” in Jackson, most likely because there was no supporting data to go along with the county’s request, Anderson said.
“We do need to go forward with those studies and generate the information so the commissioner (Bill Minor) can justify these projects with information,” he said.
Data would include estimated average wait times, accidents, and other incumbrances at the railroad crossings in Byhalia and Potts Camp.
Anderson believes the projects should not be dropped for lack of supporting data, but that the county should do studies to demonstrate the need for the overpasses.
He said commissioner Minor and former Mississippi Development Authority director Leland Speed have suggested a summit to discuss needs of Marshall County.
Anderson praised Rep. Kelvin Buck and Sen. Ralph Doxey for helping get the crisis intervention center in the state’s bond bill.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett asked why the money for the study of the railroad overpasses never materialized.
“Potts Camp is in bad need. Why did we abandon the study?” he asked.
Anderson said IDA was looking for the $30,000 or more to do the study and a potential entity to do the study but the funds were not there.
“Is it a matter of $40,000 to do a study?” asked supervisor Keith Taylor. “Whatever it is, I wouldn’t want to wait another two or three years for the state to give us money. We need to get this started.”
Larry Hall said the money could come from Community Development Block Grant funds.
Anderson said the local delegation tried to bypass the study but the money for the study had nothing to do with the legislative process, that money for a study could be available up to May or June of this year.
Taylor said trains have been blocking traffic for years and there should be plenty of documented cases available.
“This problem has been going on since we were kids and now you have growth and Chickasaw Trails,” he said. “It’s not just an inconvenience problem (waiting for a train to move), it’s safety.”
Hall added that with the Toyota project coming, it will be necessary to have immediate access to property.
Buck said time is short for a traffic study; that the demand (for growth and access) is already here.
“You know it’s not time to study, now, it’s time to be ready,” he said.
Bennett said he does not think the overpass would be funded without a traffic study.
Anderson suggested a quick study.
Buck suggested that a delegation be organized to go to planning meetings related to growth and economic development.
“We need to be in their face at all times,” he said. “I really applaud what Renick says. We’re not the only ones in this game. So the best fruit we can have is to have a delegation ready. Keeping citizens informed is also a big part of the process. If they are informed they are less likely to fight development.”
Taylor agreed, saying all parties are working more closely now.
Supervisor George Zinn III took the opportunity to thank Buck, Anderson and Rep. Jack Gadd for helping get the crisis intervention center funding.
“It’s a bill we’ve been working on for more than two years,” he said. “You’ve brought Marshall County some bacon and we appreciate that.”
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