Economic development alliance considered by Chickasaw County

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

HOUSTON – In a global economy the more friends you have the better your chance of attracting jobs and industry.

Mayors of all Chickasaw county municipalities and county officials met last week at the Chickasaw County Courthouse to discuss entering an alliance with Union and Pontotoc counties to market their communities at the state, national and international level.

Union and Pontotoc counties currently work under a similar alliance and an effort is being made to allow Chickasaw County to join. The thrust is being administered by Three Rivers Planning and Development District, which also handles economic development for eight counties across Northeast Mississippi.

“We explained how this might work out and got a consensus that this was a good idea,” Randy Kelley, Executive Director of TRPDD. “We will now approach the communities and county officials in Union and Pontotoc counties and see if they are favorable to this idea.”

Kelley pointed out no deal has been signed at this point.

“Economic development is a marathon and not a sprint and you have to be in it for the long haul,” said Kelley. “You need someone who markets you to the world every day. You also need someone who can work with existing businesses to help them expand.”

Regional figures indicate that 70 percent of the new jobs created in any community come from existing industry.

Kelley said basically Chickasaw County and its communities would agree to contribute $80,000 annually to fund a new position within the three county alliance and to pay expenses to market the community. The position would operate out of TRPDD offices in Pontotoc.

“This person would initially gather up-to-date information on existing industry in Chickasaw County and also data on what infrastructure and property might be available for business and industry,” said Kelley. “Economic development is about getting complete and detailed information into the hands of people who need it the minute they ask for it.”

Kelley pointed out the PUL Alliance (Pontotoc, Union, Lee counties) used this approach to attract Toyota to Blue Springs.

This alliance would also be the starting point for Chickasaw County industry and business seeking funding or other help to expand their business.

Kelley also said this move would not do away with efforts by the Chickasaw Development Foundation or the Okolona Chamber of Commerce.

“We would assist those organization any way we can,” said Kelley. “This would allow them to focus on commerce, retail and other community issues and quality of life events in their towns.”

Kelley said municipal and county boards would have to meet and vote on the alliance. He said he hoped to make a formal announcement in the next few weeks.

Last year TRPDD’s technical assistance division helped local governments in the eight county region secure $5.05 million in grant funds and $7.9 million for site development and infrastructure. The funding help create 1,030 jobs and retain 1,848 jobs with existing companies.