Three Rivers wants easier grant process

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – A Northeast Mississippi economic developer asked Northeast Mississippi legislators on Thursday to file a bill that would make it easier for his agency to award grants and loans to local governments.
“This would be for community and economic development projects,” said Randy Kelley, executive director of the Three Rivers Planning and Development District.
Three Rivers is one of 10 planning and development districts in the state that helps local governments with community enhancement projects.
Kelly said Three Rivers, which is based in Pontotoc, has access to more funds for loans than most districts because of an aggressive effort through the years to procure federal and other monies.
Kelley said some questions exist about whether Three Rivers has authority to make certain loans to local governments without legislative approval. He wants the Legislature to approve legislation to allow the district to make such loans or grants without legislative approval.
All of the local governments in the eight-county Three River area have endorsed for the legislation, he said.
“We think it is non-controversial fly-through legislation,” Kelley said “We hope it is.”
Rep Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, pointed out that in recent years the Legislature had to approve a loan from Three Rivers for an economic development project in Amory.
“I will support the legislation,” Turner said, saying it could speed up economic development projects.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said he plans to file the legislation in the House.
“I think it is a fabulous idea,” Holland said. “Three Rivers is one of the foremost planning and development districts in the nation. They have empowered so many local governments, companies and people.”
Two other bills that could affect the Northeast Mississippi economy are pending in the Senate.
– On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee passed legislation that would provide a $2,000 tax credit for each new cut-and-sew employee hired in the furniture industry. The legislation is designed to boost ailing furniture manufacturers, many of which are located in Northeast Mississippi.
– Another bill would provide low-interest loans for sweet potato farmers, many of whom are located in Calhoun and Chickasaw counties. Many sweet potato farmers suffered financial setbacks last year because of unusually heavy rains during their harvest season.
Both bills have passed the House and are expected to pass the Senate in the coming days.