The Big Virus Hitting Big Business Locally

A local manufacturing plant has had to close its doors due to COVID-19. There is currently no word on when or if they will be re-opening. On the upside, The GTR LINK and EMCC are currently implementing plans to get the impacted workers retrained and re-assigned as needed in new jobs and even, if need be, in new professions, with the skills needed to thrive in them.

Article courtesy of The Dispatch and the GTR LINK

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Local business voices: Two steps forward by Macaulay Whitaker, GTR LINK
From: https://cdispatch.com/news/article.asp?aid=80950

You’ve heard the saying, “two steps forward, one step back.” In economic development, this is particularly true.


(Spoiler alert. There will be no rainbows and sunshine today. No Googling necessary.)

Macaulay Whitaker – COO of GTR LINK – Courtesy Photo

We received word Tuesday that a longtime plant in our region is closing. Indefinitely with no current plans for reopening.

This is the first manufacturer in the Golden Triangle that has been taken down, in part, by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a very real possibility that it will not be the last.

Every single employer in the nation is currently faced with challenges no one saw coming.

Hard times call for hard decisions.

The physical, emotional and economic strain that currently faces our world is beyond a magnitude that many of us can imagine.

This week, we continued our work with Golden Triangle cities and counties, attempting to make plans and solve problems surrounding taxes, operations and how to proceed in the near and far future.

We’re watching in real-time our government, at local, state and federal levels, confront no-win situations daily and make difficult calls. Furloughs, lay-offs and closures. Permanent or not, each decision has a trickle-down effect that affects a lot more than just the parties directly involved.

Early on in our series for the paper, we talked about how sales taxes are connected to our everyday lives and why shopping locally can buoy necessary services in times like these. The operation of our cities relies heavily on sales taxes, but ad valorem taxes and special use taxes could also be negatively affected by this crisis.

TIF (tax increment financing) bonds that are used to attract developers in the retail and hotel sector are paid through sales tax revenue. Columbus, Starkville and West Point all have TIF bonds for various projects and these cities likely won’t be able to make bond payments. It’s also likely that local banks hold those bonds, and now will need to work with our cities to restructure that debt.

Special use taxes like the one-percent parks and recreation tax in Starkville to fund a $20 million park project will be severely decreased, putting a pause on those improvements while the city triages its needs.

The Columbus-Lowndes Community Development Tax is a 2 percent on the gross sales of restaurants in the City of Columbus, and it funds economic development, recreation and tourism activities for Lowndes County, the City of Columbus, the CCVB and the Golden Triangle Development LINK. With lower tax projections, this could result in a massive loss of revenue for each of these entities. It will be particularly problematic for the CCVB which relies on this tax as their sole source of funding and the distribution of this tax is prescribed by law.

Businesses, governments and organizations are looking at current and future budgets and making decisions to survive.

Hard times call for hard decisions.

We reiterated last week our intent to be a signal for the Golden Triangle.

Consider this a warning shot. Very hard times are coming, and they’ll leave a mark. They will not, however, be forever. The same day we heard about that plant closing, we notified our partners and East Mississippi Community College initiated plans for a rapid response program to train and upskill those employees for better careers. We saw three employers open their plants back up Monday, with plans to bring their entire workforce back to work safely in the coming months, if business allows. We received a call from a mother looking to find her son training for a job building helicopters because, “he’s home and he needs to get to work.” A local restaurant in Columbus announced a grand re-opening, the third one in the past two years because you just can’t keep great people down. Hard times call for hard decisions. Out of those decisions, our communities can re-emerge leaner, focused and ready to move into the future that this pandemic has opened up to us.

Whitaker is the COO of the GTR LINK, the primary economic development organization in the region.

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