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franklin county times

Good intentions

By Staff
June 6, 2004
The concept, adopted four years ago, was fairly simple. Lauderdale County would buy a 500-plus acre tract of pastureland, Meridian would furnish water and sewer service and coordinate construction of an interchange to serve what is to become the Interstate 20/59 Industrial Park, and the East Mississippi Business Development Corp. would market the site to prospects.
The idea was to create industrial space that would attract new, higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs beyond the relatively lower-paying retail jobs currently available. The idea is to improve the local quality of life by attracting companies that produce new wealth for the community, not just shuffle old money around.
Economic development professionals particularly site selection consultants say an industrial park with infrastructure already in place is a huge inducement for companies looking at relocating. Showing prospects a vast empty field and trying to get them to envision what it could one day be is simply unproductive in this fast-paced day and age.
Expanding and relocating companies want to move as quickly as possible, get their buildings built, their equipment in place and their workforce hired so they can start making money. It's the way business operates.
Locally, Lauderdale County supervisors took the heat and bought the property, informally known as the Malone Ranch property. The EMBDC is working hard to market it. The Meridian city administration, however, considered the project such a low priority that it has only in the last few weeks starting laying water and sewer lines. Confusion and controversy continues to surround the interchange, which, again, is the city's responsibility; a site for the interchange hasn't even been selected.
This is what happens when one of the players decides not to play on the team, when one of the players by evidence of actions, or inaction is pulling in a different direction than the rest.
Delays and uncertainty are no longer acceptable in the case of the I 20/59 Industrial Park. If our community is ever going to be able to attract new business and industry, this park simply has to be developed.
The ball's in the city of Meridian's court.

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