Gov. Barbour signs Three Rivers loan bill

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Three Rivers Planning and Development District Executive Director Randy Kelley said his agency plans to make a loan to a local government that will enable it to purchase a building that will be deeded to a private company in a lease-purchase agreement.
The net result, if the plan comes to fruition, will be the creation of jobs in Northeast Mississippi.
In the past, there has been some question about whether a local government would have to get permission from the Legislature through what is known as a local and private bill to conduct such a transaction.
But that will no longer be an issue. Late Monday, Gov. Haley Barbour signed into law legislation that will give the local governments in the Three Rivers Planning and Development District region the authority to conduct such business with Three Rivers.
“This means I have the authority to loan money to my local governments for economic development reasons when a project comes along,” said Kelley. “…I’m elated. It opens a lot of doors.”
The primary author of the legislation was Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville. But several of the House members from the Three Rivers region co-authored the bill.
The legislation also was endorsed by all the local governments in the eight-county Three Rivers region.
Three Rivers is one of 10 planning and development districts throughout the state that provide assistance to local governments on community enhancement projects. Kelley said Three Rivers, which is based in Pontotoc, has about $22 million available to loan local governments for economic development projects.
These funds have been garnered through aggressive efforts to procure federal funds and other money. For instance, in the 1980s and 1990s, the federal Appalachian Regional Commission awarded Three Rivers funds that have been leveraged through the years to make loans to local governments.
“If you make good loans and don’t have foreclosures, the pot of money will grow,” Kelley said.
Holland said it makes sense to give Three Rivers additional leeway to make such loans without legislative approval.
“Three Rivers is one of the foremost planning and development districts in the nation,” Holland said. “They have empowered so many local governments, companies and people.”
The bill, which takes effect immediately, passed the House and Senate without a dissenting vote.

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or Bobby.harrison@djournal.com.