Okolona votes to enter economic alliance

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

OKOLONA – The last piece of a new economic development plan was put into place Tuesday that will bring a regional concept of attracting jobs to Chickasaw, Union and Pontotoc county.

The Okolona Mayor and Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last night to enter an alliance with Houston and Chickasaw County who have been invited by Pontotoc and Union counties to join together through a regional office that will recruit new industry and assist existing businesses with growth and economic development grants.

“I think this will be very advantageous to Okolona and is a good investment,” said Ward 1 Alderman Kenneth McVay, in making the motion to enter the alliance. “They have said they are impressed with what Okolona has to offer and want us to be part of this.”

McVay’s motion was seconded by Ward 4 Alderman Imogene Armstrong. The vote to enter the alliance was unanimous.

The board did ask for clarification on the annual $20,000 fee to be paid by Okolona. Under the agreement, Houston will chip in $20,000 and Chickasaw County will contribute $40,000.

Josh West has been hired as the Regional Economic Developer for the alliance and he will have an assistant to help with office duties and information management.

“Doing economic development at the regional level can be much more successful,” said Okolona Mayor Louise Floyd-Cole. “If this alliance can do for us what the PUL (Pontotoc, Union, Lee) alliance has done, this will be a great opportunity for this community.”

The PUL alliance was a driving factor in bringing Toyota’s massive auto plant to Blue Springs.

West’s primary roles will include existing industry support and new industry recruitment.

A native of North Mississippi, West earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Delta State University in 2005. Upon graduation from Delta State, West participated in a Congressional internship in the office of Roger Wicker. At the conclusion of his time in Washington he enrolled at Mississippi State University where he earned a Masters of Public Policy and Public Administration.

In 2006 West spent a semester abroad studying at King’s College in London, England. During his time at King’s, West focused on International Business Policy.

Following graduate school West joined Parkway Properties Inc., a publicly traded real estate investment trust, headquartered in Jackson, where he leased and managed assets for Parkway in Nashville and Memphis.

In 2009 West joined Three Rivers Planning and Development District. He currently serves as Regional Economic Developer for Union and Pontotoc Counties.

West was presented the 2009 Ray and Jimmy Heidel Award, an annual state-wide award given to emerging leaders in the field economic development. In 2011 West graduated from The University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute.

Josh is married to the former Jill Waycaster, of Tupelo, and they have two sons, Clay and Micah. They reside in New Albany.

The move to form this alliance has been in the works for several years.

A forum was held Sept. 11 with Randy Kelley of Three Rivers Planning and Development District to discuss the alliance and representatives from Okolona, Houston and Chickasaw County were at that meeting.

Both the Okolona Chamber of Commerce and the Chickasaw Development Foundation will continue to be a contact for commercial and community development and will work with West to land factories and jobs.

Last year Three Rivers Planning and Development District’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.