Thursday, April 12, 2007
County, cities unite to recruit industries
By SUE WATSON
Manufacturing jobs are on the minds of elected officials all across Marshall County as they work to develop a unified strategy to bring more manufacturing jobs to the area.
City and county elected officials met with the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority to discuss opportunities and good sites that could be added to a list of existing sites and empty plants they will present to prospects.
And the prospects are looking better and better, said IDA directors at the Thursday meeting.
Recent plans since the announcement in February that Toyota will build an assembly plant in Union County include developing a unified team to show off available sites along U.S. Highway 78 through the county and sealing deals with landowners to make large, as well as small, tracts of land available for industrial development.
Bill Renick, director of IDA, restated two keys to attracting manufacturing companies to the area - availability of large tracts near the railroad and a sizable and trainable workforce.
The Town of Byhalia meets both the requirements easily, Renick said. Railroad access is there, as well as a regional workforce of 650,000.
Holly Springs also has at least one good tract of land near the railroad - 82 acres owned by the county that sits adjacent to the North Holly Springs bypass. And Potts Camp has access to rail, as well as good highway connections.
Another 800 acres of land is available near the North Holly Springs exit off U.S. 78, Renick said.
But competition for manufacturing plants that will supply parts to Toyota is fierce, Renick said. That’s because there is so much land available in the northeast Mississippi area. And as the competition escalates, companies will be in a position to stipulate the conditions, he said.
Some companies that will supply Toyota say they won’t come unless the land is donated, he said.
“When they ask a question, they want the right answer,” he said. “You’ve got to be on the top of your game.”
Holly Springs has several empty industrial buildings it can get ready quickly for new manufacturing tenants and at least two existing manufacturing plants have expressed interest in becoming a Toyota supplier, Renick said.
“What we want to do is to get the city and the board of supervisors to think about how to do this,” he said.
Numerous strategies are on the table at IDA, including signing memoranda of understanding with landowners that would allow IDA to market the property, as was done at Chickasaw Trails Industrial park; just buying some property outright as Tippah County has done; and forming non-profit/government agreements to lay industrial water and sewer treatment facilities as was done at Chickasaw.
“We will provide some 30- to 40-acres sites and have them available,” Renick said.
IDA also has prospects to provide large sites from 150 acres up to 800 acres, he said.
Holly Springs Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said industrial/commercial prospects not only want tax exemptions but also want government to help jump start infrastructure.
“Holly Springs and Byhalia has industrial sewer and water treatment,” Del Stover said. “That’s why we did what we did at Chickasaw - built a batch treatment plant so we can treat industrial wastes.”
Renick said Toyota’s presence in Northeast Mississippi offers the region “a chance of a lifetime.”
“Mississippi has all kinds of resources but industry is looking for the guys who are willing to work together as a team and the guys who are willing to help themselves,” Renick said.
Stover agreed that Marshall County has great opportunity knocking.
“We have opportunity to always be looked at first,” he said. “Now we have growth from west to east and coming from everywhere.”
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