• 41°

Industrial site prepped for upscale industry, high-paying jobs

By Staff
INDUSTRIAL ENTRANCE The entrance to the new Highway 11/80 East industrial park sits clear of debris after work crews spent Friday and Saturday cleaning the site. The entrance drive is lined with tall trees and lush vegetation. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Sept. 9, 2001
Dozens of heavy yellow machinery dotted the lush, green countryside Saturday, trimming and grooming what is to be Lauderdale County's newest industrial park.
County Supervisor Jimmie Smith called the two-day effort "mystical, magical, exciting and inspirational." Others described the volunteer job as a new beginning for Lauderdale County.
Hundreds of volunteers began the cleanup job Friday at the former Malone Ranch on Highway 11/80 East in hopes of attracting upscale industry and high-paying jobs. The idea, East Mississippi Business Development Corp. President Wade Jones said, is to market the property for its strategic placement along Interstate 20 and for its splendid beauty.
The 600-acre property includes a ranch house, guest houses, barns, ponds, pecan orchards and gentle sloping hills with lush vegetation and ponds. The entire tract of land is just east of Meridian.
Jones said that any industry making its home here will have to agree to maintain the beauty of the property.
Perfect location
Terrell Temple, engineer for the industrial park, said he doesn't "know of another industrial park that comes this close to being this attractive and also has the perfect location. When we're done, there won't be a prettier piece of property in the area. This will be a perfect place for a national headquarters."
Jimmy Alexander, president of A &B Electric Co. Inc., said the cleanup effort exceeded his expectations. Work crews trimmed trees, cleared underbrush and moved heavy piles of debris. Once the rest of the undergrowth has been burned off, new grass will be planted and the old ranch will be restored to its original beauty.
The soil there is perfect for construction, said Lauderdale County Road Foreman Charlie Mathis.
Funding needs
Temple said the timetable for opening the park depends largely on federal funding and on attracting a tenant.
Temple said the county has applied for a $1.8 million economic development grant to fund water and sewerage. He said the state Department of Transportation has applied for a $1 million Federal Highway Administration grant to provide interstate access.
Alexander said he and other business leaders hope engineers will begin designing the I-20 access in as little as three months.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., who stopped by the site Saturday afternoon, promised to do his part in securing funding and in attracting industry.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for the Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.