By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The newest member of the CREATE Foundation, Lowndes County, joined last fall and brought along an impressive resume.
And its lead economic development agency has been the driver of much of that success.
Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Columbus-based Golden Triangle Development Link, said Lowndes County has benefited from the creation of more than 5,200 jobs and $4.5 billion in capital investment since 2003.
Last year, the Link – formerly the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link – added West Point, and this year added Starkville under its economic development umbrella. The three cities have long been dubbed the “Golden Triangle,” so the Link changed its name to reflect that.
Higgins, who has headed the Link the past decade, said solid infrastructure and a capable workforce are keys in landing projects like Severstal, Paccar, American Eurocopter and Yokohama.
“Most people will tell you what a nice place they have, but in reality, not every piece of land is an ideal site,” he said. “You have to have a good site and a good plan. To get the big deal, you’ve got to have the water, the sewage, the utilities, the roads.”
When Higgins started in 2003, industrial acreage in Lowndes County was about 2,000 acres. Today, with Clay County included, the acreage has grown to 7,500. The GTDL is currently gathering information about Starkville and Oktibbeha County.
With a budget of about $2.5 million, GTDL is in position to promote and recruit for the area.
It recently added former University of Alabama Chancellor and former Mississippi State University President Malcolm Portera. Also coming on board is Chief Operating Officer Joey Deason, the former Mississippi Development Authority chief financial officer.
The most recent success story for the Link was Yokohama Tire’s decision to build a plant near West Point. The $330 million project eventually could add 2,000 jobs.
Higgins said it’s those kinds of big projects he’ll continue to pursue.
“Since 2003, we’ve invested more than $203 million in infrastructure,” he said.
And the results speak for themselves.