EDITORIAL: Progress for growth

By NEMS Daily Journal

Lee County’s Board of Supervisors, armed with the reassuring and factual information it sought, on Wednesday unanimously approved a rebidding for the planned expansion of the Renasant Center for IDEAs in downtown Tupelo.
Supervisors tabled a decision about the $5.4 million project last week because they wanted assurance that paying for the county’s share of the expansion – $1.35 million – would not require a tax increase.
The county and the private-sector Community Development Foundation will provide $2.7 million jointly, with the balance funded by the federal Economic Development Administration.
The Renasant Center, opened in 2006, is a successful public-private small business incubator in downtown Tupelo. It has been home to about two dozen new small businesses and business service and advocacy groups, resulting in about 300 new jobs.
The Board of Supervisors delayed moving on rebidding a contract for the expansion because District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan, District 5 Supervisor Joe McKinney, and District 4 Supervisor Tommie Lee Ivy said they would oppose the rebidding if higher taxes were required.
Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson presented persuasive facts Wednesday showing the annual growth in county revenue averaging 4.61 percent for the past decade and 5.38 percent for the past five years, while the $75,000 debt service for the Renasant Center bonds would require only 1.55 percent growth.
Expansion plans call for a separate 24,300-square-foot, LEED-certified facility near the existing 31,180-square-foot incubator, which sits in the Fairpark District. CDF owns the land for the proposed expansion. CDF will occupy part of the expanded portion, moving from its historic but cramped offices on the corner of Main and Broadway streets.
The Board of Supervisors, which strongly committed to the expansion in partnership with CDF and the EDA in 2009, sought reassurance about costs in the context of a persistent, strong recession.
The facts showed Lee County’s revenue stream and financial strength adequate to the commitment, and the board made the logical, positive, optimistic decision to move ahead with a new jobs-producing investment.

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Correction
– The Toyota supplier named in Wednesday’s editorial – Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi – is in the Harry A. Martin North Lee Industrial Complex in Baldwyn. The location was incorrectly cited in Wednesday’s editorial.