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EMBDC readies for annual meeting

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Oct. 14, 2002
The East Mississippi Development Corp. will reflect on the past year during its annual meeting tonight at the Frank Cochran Center.
Wade Jones, EMBDC president, and Tommy Dulaney, EMBDC chairman, met with The Meridian Star editorial board last week to discuss the past year of economic development in East Mississippi.
David Sampson, assistant secretary of Commerce for economic development will be the keynote speaker tonight.
Jones said Sampson will arrive in Meridian before noon today, tour the city and meet local elected officials.
The Meridian Star: What are your observations of the past year in economic development?
Tommy Dulaney: One of our biggest priorities for the year was getting the Interstate 20/59 infrastructure in place. We needed the water and sewer out there and the interchange because when we're talking to industrial prospects that's the first thing they want to know is when is the water and sewer going to be there and when is the interchange going to be there. We've been trying to tie those down so we could give some firm dates.
We felt like we may have lost a couple of prospects because in the past we couldn't tie that down. Now it's getting to where we can give some dates.
With the EMBDC, it's really been a busy year.
The Star: What are the prospects looking like in respect to the recruitment of automotive industries?
Wade Jones: In working with Hyundai suppliers in particular, because of the distance between there and Meridian, if they have large numbers of truck loads being shipped everyday, then that works to our detriment. We're still optimistic with the Hyundai suppliers that there are opportunities here.
The Star: What are your observations about the local workforce?
Dulaney: We have a large workforce to draw from, when you're talking about 400,000 within a 56-mile radius. Speaking of my business, Structural Steel Services Inc., I'd put them up with any in the world. And certainly there are a lot of people that are unemployed in the area that would love to get the opportunity. We have a very trainable workforce here for automotive suppliers.
The Star: How does the national economy affect the recruitment of industries, if at all?
Dulaney: It certainly affects it. Businesses are always looking ahead. If you're going to build a plant, you might be looking three or four years down the road. Even though the economy is down, they're still making their plans for the future because they know it's going to cycle. You always go through these cycles with the economy.
As far as timing, it might affect when they want a plant to come into production. But I would think that people are still looking.
Jones: We've seen hesitation on the part of some of the companies that we have worked with in postponing decisions and we attribute it to the economy.
The Star: What does it take to be competitive?
Jones: Obviously you have to have a piece of land available that's accessible, that's developed meaning it has utilities to it and that has quick access. The package itself, including what other communities are offering, can be as much as offering buildings at no cost to the company.
Dulaney: You're talking $20 million to $30 million buildings, too, in some cases. It's amazing what these companies will lay on the table and say that they want. It's just amazing. It makes me just want to shut down my business, move across the line to Alabama and then say "Try to get me to come back."
Jones: So you have everything from local incentives with property being given, property being developed with all of the dirt work done, site development and everything up until you're ready for construction. And understand that you'll have to spend $1 million or $1.5 million for the access road into the property and now you're going to spend another $2 million to development the site.
So it's an expensive proposition.
Dulaney: When they get Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia competing, they say "This is what we want." They say things like they want 50 acres of land and a $20 million building. They literally want to walk in the door and start operating. It's just incredible.