Exciting times for county
When Justin Hall talks, one phrase surfaces time and time again – “we are excited.”
That’s because Marshall County is exploding when it comes to economic development. It’s one of the hot spots in the state, if not the hottest.
“It’s incredible to watch it all happening,” said Hall, executive director of the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority.
“Since 2013, we’ve added 1,500 new jobs and $600 million in capital investment for Marshall County.”
Gov. Phil Bryant, on a recent visit to celebrate an expansion at Parker in Holly Springs said, “This county was once a rural area and not a lot of attention was paid to it. Now it’s all coming together for the good.”
The most recent announcement was Cooper Tire selecting a site off Highway 72, at the Gateway Global Logistics Center, for a one-million-square-foot warehouse.
Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park in the northwestern portion of the county has been a big success.
“The first building there was in 2007, and then we hit a little lull,” Hall said. “But that gave us an opportunity to get more of the infrastructure in place, and then things hit quickly.”
He said the new recruitments are household names, like Volvo, Post, McCormick, Asics and Niagara Bottling. Rockwool, a world leader in stone wool insulation, picked Chickasaw Trail a few years back for a manufacturing facility.
“They have been very competitive projects, and we definitely cheer when we win one,” Hall said.
“We have 3,600 acres in Chickasaw Trail, and it is really taking hold.”
Hall said the IDA office, which operates with a small staff, is hard at work for the betterment of the county. It is governed by a 13-member board with members bringing various backgrounds of leadership to the table.
“We’re all pulling in the right direction,” he said.
“IDA’s main goal is to create jobs, to bring in new investment. We want positive business growth.
“We want everyone to live here and work here. We want our people to be able to shop local, use local banks and local realtors.”
The market now is not county versus county, it’s Marshall County versus places like Nashville, Tenn., Atlanta, Ga., and Dallas, Texas.
“We’re opening our arms and welcoming new investments,” Hall said. “We are creating a business-friendly environment.”
He also emphasized that even with all the new investment, a primary focus has to be on existing industry.
“There’s a ton of solid manufacturing base already in our county, and we can’t overlook it,” Hall said. “It’s easier to grow and expand than it is to pull in a new one.”
He also stressed the need for a strong workforce.
“These are better-paying, high-tech jobs that are coming to the county,” he said. “These new facilities, and those expanding, are streamlining the process.
“But they still have to have the right people to do the work to be successful. There are jobs available in Marshall County.”
A new workforce training center is already in the works in Marshall County.
“Space will be available to any industry looking to locate here or existing industries,” he said.
And a goal is for the county to become an ACT Work Ready Community. Work Ready Communities participate in ACT’s program to help job seekers prove career readiness and help employers recruit better prepared employees.
“We need to show we are doing all we can do to make sure future generations of workers are prepared,” Hall said.
“We want these young people to have something on their resumé when they leave high school. They can go take the ACT WorkKeys Assessment. The superintendents are getting excited about this.”
Another exciting development as far as Marshall County’s economic development potential is the new Springs Industrial Park. The 3,000 acres is located just west of Holly Springs adjacent to Interstate 22. It also has rail access.
“I think this is an opportunity to bring in game-changing projects,” Hall said. “Very few sites anywhere have what this one has when it comes to being competitive.”
There’s a good workforce within a 30-mile radius, which includes Oxford, Senatobia, New Albany and Memphis, Tenn.
“I like our odds when it comes to competing with other Mississippi communities,” he said. “And we have good sites in Byhalia, too, near I-269. These interstate highways are changing the face of our county.”
Hall said there are $6.3 million in federal infrastructure grants active in Marshall County for things like water and sewer, plus $2.7 million in state infrastructure grants.
“That costs the taxpayers zero dollars,” he said.
Unemployment is at 4.5 percent in Marshall County, the lowest since 2000. And the poverty rate is trending down, too, Hall said.
“There are a lot of positive things happening in our state and in particular right here in Marshall County,” Hall said.
“Marshall County has caught the attention of a lot of people, from the state level to the federal level. And it’s exciting.”