Author Archives: Colin Krieger

Starkville Fire Dept Seeks to Expand Training Opportunities

STARKVILLE, MS – Courtesy of the Starkville Daily News

Currently, prospective firefighters from across the state must go to Jackson in order to complete their training. The Starkville FD, which already has some training areas in place, is seeking a matching grant in order to construct a similar facility here in Northern Mississippi, in order to provide greater access to the specialized training all of our brave firefighters need.

Fire Station 3 training grounds in Starkville – photo by Brad Robertson, SDN

“If we need to get a firefighter trained, they have to go to Jackson,” Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough said.

The SFD is seeking an Assistance to Firefighters Grant, a grant offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This would cover a portion of the cost for what is planned to be a roughly $200,000 structure that would allow Starkville to become a regional training ground, including such facilities as a steel maze designed so that its walls can be set up in myriad ways in order to emulate building layouts that firefighters might have to deal with out in the field. Also included would be facilities that allow for training on rappelling, forced entry and multiple different forms of entry into buildings, including garage doors and wall breaches.

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Goody’s to Become Gordmans

STARKVILLE, MS – Courtesy of the Starkville Daily News

Stage Stores, the parent company of Goody’s, has announced that there is good news on the horizon regarding its imminent store closure on Hwy 12. The chain will be converting to its discount clothing store, Gordmans, in a few months. According to store signage, the new store is scheduled to open in Spring of this year.

The exterior of the Goody’s store in Starkville Crossings
(Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

In the meantime, the current Goody’s location is holding a liquidation sale while supplies last. Also, their locations in Kosciusko, Starkville and Yazoo City will be holding job fairs on January 12st from 11AM to 8PM.

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EMCC Helps Teens FORGE Ahead with Construction Jobs

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Local teen students were invited to a special day at EMCC’s vocational skills center: the first FORGE Foundation Career Expo, which took place this past Wednesday. Ten different construction-related companies had gathered to join a number of technical schools and support organizations in order to give the students hands-on examples of what it’s like to work in the industry.

“This is pretty cool,” said Curtis McDonald, a student from New Hope Middle School. “I like hanging the drywall and it was cool learning about how to drive the road grader. That was a lot of fun. I could probably do something like this as a job when I get out of school. “

While the groups had oral presentations and displays, the students reserved their strongest enthusiasm for the hand-on activities. These included things like generating power via stationary bicycles, drawing up blueprints, physical competitions, and even building a brick wall.

“It’s going really well,” said FORGE Foundation member Katie McCrary, who owns McCrary West Construction with her husband Lu. “The kids are having fun. They’re loving the masonry wall or finishing concrete because they’ve never seen it. Today was all about exposure.”

The FORGE Foundation (Family Organizations Recruiting Great Employees), came about in 2018 as a cooperative effort among local construction-related businesses: “We came together because all of us are small businesses and we could not find employees to hire so we were stealing them from one another,” McCrary said. “So we all decided to sit down and work together. Small businesses can offer this next generation a lot.” They have been working to show that they can be an alternative to – rather than a 100% substitute for – larger construction firms.

“We are starting to see that mindset change,” McCrary said. “The latest data shows 27 percent of Mississippi kids will get a two-year or four-year degree of some kind. So our question is, what happens to the 73 percent who don’t? Who are these kids? What are they doing? Next year, there will be over a million skill trade jobs open in the United States and 97 percent of construction firms are currently hiring. If we don’t start changing these kids now, who is going to work for us? That’s basically where we are. Skill trade-wise, it’s becoming a lost art.”

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Communiversity Director Named by EMCC

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

East Mississippi Community College recently announced the hiring of its first-ever Executive Director, Courtney Taylor, Ph.D. Taylor has a breadth of experience in the field: “Courtney brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position,” EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks said. “She understands the integral role community colleges play as intermediaries between local communities, economic developers and area industries.”

GT LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins relayed the recommendations of the LINK’s CFO, Macauley Whitaker: “Macauley spent an extensive amount of time with her. [Taylor] comes with high recommendations. We think she’ll be a good partner with us on the economic development side.”

EMCC’s Exec Dir Courtney Taylor, PhD.
Courtesy Photo

“I spend a lot of time working with the colleges to identify new educational opportunities and meeting with industry officials to ensure our education programs are cutting edge and address necessary basic needs,” Taylor said. “One of my passions is making sure all stakeholders are on the same page and understand what is going on. . .

“One of the things that excites me about the Golden Triangle is you are positioned for growth,” she went on to say. “You have obviously invested heavily in workforce in ways that a lot of places have not.”

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New Clinics, Credit Union, and More Open Their Doors Locally

GOLDEN TRIANGLE AREA – Courtesy of the Dispatch


In East Columbus: K.S. Phillips, PLLC is a new accounting firm that serves a wide variety of businesses and offers many services: “If you have an accounting need, we pretty much do it,” owner/operator Katie Phillips said. They are located at 105-B Alabama St. Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 662-328-4919.

The Air Force Federal Credit Union has opened its doors in Columbus at 1908 Hwy 45 N. Suite 1. Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon. They will be holding a ribbon cutting/grand opening with refreshments and other festivities this Friday at 8 a.m. Their first location was founded in 1952 in San Antonio, TX.

In sadder news, downtown’s Steel Forest Furniture Store will be closing its storefront on 5th St S. On the upside, owner Chip Gerber reports that he will continue to sell his fine custom furniture via his FaceBook page: “I get a tremendous amount of joy doing it,” Gerber said. “…Basically this was a hobby that turned into a business.” The store is projected to remain open through about the end of November, and will be open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. until that time.

He also says that he hasn’t given up on physical stores just yet: “I appreciate the support that the community has given us, I know a lot of people are sad to see the store go,” Gerber said. “We’re not going away forever, we’re going to come back a little different. …We will be back, but we are going to come back in a different fashion. We are going to have a presence somewhere. I know I’m going to change it up, I’m just not sure how yet.”

Rhett Family Dental recently held its grand opening at their office at 2102 Fifth St. N. Suite 2. Hours: Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Dr. Rhett is accepting new patients with a phone call at 662-328-6953.

Towne Liquor, 507-1 18th Ave. N., also opened their doors this week. Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.


The People’s Cup MicroRoastery is transitioning to a daily “pop-up shop” model, and will be doing so at various locations in Starkville, per owner Blair Edwards. Locations will be listed on their Instagram.

Methodist Orthotics and Prosthetics opened for business recently at 101 G.T. Thames Dr., Suite A. The clinic primarily provides braces and artificial limbs to patients of all ages. Those in need of care can call 800-223-6672, extension 8899 for a free consultation.

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SDI Continues to Expand, Adding Functionality and Local Jobs

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

County officials recently toured Steel Dynamics’ (SDI) latest state-of-the-art paint line recently. SDI is in the process of constructing a new galvanizing line, which should help them expand their business providing custom-painted steel for automobiles and other similar products.

SDI Columbus general manager Madhu Ranade briefs Lowndes Co supervisors on SDI’s paint line operations before a tour of the facility
Photo by Slim Smith, The Dispatch

Their existing paint line cost $94 million to build, SDI Columbus general manager Madhu Ranade Ranade said. It has been in service for around two years: “It’s the most advanced paint line in North America,” Ranade said.

Their paint line, per Ranade, has expanded their product offerings significantly, with more than 1,400 tints available, all made to the customer’s most exacting preferences: “I can’t tell light blue from dark blue; our customers are very picky,” he said. “I was amazed to learn there are 14 shades of white alone.”

The visitors then went to see the new galvanizing line, which is expected to be 100% complete and fully-functional by about this time next year, “But everybody knows I expect it to be finished before then,” Ranade said.

SDI makes galvanized steel and galvalume as its primary physical products: “Galvalume is a mixture of zinc and aluminum and is more corrosion resistant,” Ranade said. “The applications are for things like roofing, siding, garage doors, lighting, appliances. . . “The new galvanizing line will allow us to increase production for automotive,” Ranade said. “We would like to have about 20 percent of our product going to the automotive industry.”

Ranade went on to say that the paint line added about 40 jobs to the existing 550 that were in place when they bought the plant in 2014, and that they expect to add that about another 40 or so once the new line is ready: “For every steel job we create, we generate seven other local jobs,” he said.

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[Press Release] Leigh Mall Sells for $3.5 Million

[PRESS RELEASE] COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

A winning bid of $3.5 million purchased Leigh Mall through an online auction that ended Thursday afternoon.

The bid met the reserve, which is the minimum bid necessary to require the sellers to accept. The high bidder’s identity, however, will likely be withheld from public disclosure until after the formal close of the sale, which could be several weeks.

Leigh Mall on Highway 45 in Columbus has sold at auction – File Photo from the Dispatch

The sale includes more than 30 acres of property and more than 300,000 square feet of existing retail space.

Colony Financial took ownership of Leigh Mall from Security National Properties in 2018 after SNP defaulted on a $34.7 million loan for which the mall was one of dozens of properties put up as collateral.

Leigh Mall, built in 1973 off Highway 45 North, is only 57-percent occupied, with original anchors JCPenney and Sears both vacated. Hobby Lobby, Planet Fitness, Books-a-Million and other big-box tenants remain.

In 2018, Lowndes County Tax Assessor/Collector Greg Andrews valued the mall property, including all of its businesses, at $12 million to $18 million.

Colliers International’s Atlanta-based marketing team listed the property. Ten-X, an online auction house for commercial properties, facilitated the auction, which began on Tuesday.

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[Press Release] Leigh Mall Auction to Begin Today

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Leigh Mall on Highway 45 in Columbus is up for public auction as collateral on a defaulted loan, according to The Dispatch – File Photo from the Dispatch

The auction of Leigh Mall began at 11 a.m. today and will run until Thursday.

Ten-X, an online auction site for commercial property, is facilitating the mall sale. The starting bid is set at $1.5 million.

Colony Financial owns Leigh Mall, located off Highway 45 North. The company foreclosed on previous owner Security National Properties after SNP defaulted on a $34.7 million loan for which the mall was one of dozens of properties listed as collateral. Jones Lange LaSalle (JLL) Americas has managed the mall since the foreclosure.

Colliers International’s Atlanta-based retail sales team is the listing agency for the mall sale. Leigh Mall sits on about 30 acres and includes 319,384 square feet of retail space. The mall is 57 percent occupied and has a net operating income of $468,000, according to Ten-X marketing materials.

Opened in 1973, Leigh Mall’s occupancy rate has fallen to about 57 percent, with original anchor stores JCPenney and Sears both vacated. Hobby Lobby, Planet Fitness, Books-a-Million and a few other big-box stores remain.

Lowndes County Tax Assessor/Collector Greg Andrews estimated in 2018 the mall property, including its businesses, is worth between $12 million and $18 million.

Bidders were required to pre-register for the auction with a $25,000 deposit. A 5-percent transaction fee (minimum $40,000) will be applied to the sale, according to the Ten-X site.

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Veteran EMCC Teacher Wins National Award

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of

EMCC’s Auto Tech/Diesel Mechanics Dept Head Dale Henry was recently named as the Byrl Shoemaker/ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor of the Year. A 12-year veteran instructor at EMCC, he will formally receive the award at a Nov 13 ASE banquet: “I was almost speechless,” Henry said of his reaction when he was informed of the award.

Courtesy Photo

“Students who graduate from our Automotive Technology program are highly sought after by those in the auto repair industry because of the quality instruction they receive from Dale and his team,” EMCC President Dr. Scott Alsobrooks said. “We couldn’t be more pleased that Dale’s commitment to his students and to his program are being recognized.”

“I have always been heavy on the certification side,” Henry said. “You have to be certified in whatever you are teaching, but I go way above and beyond what is required.”

In January 2018, EMCC was among 12 colleges nationwide selected by Toyota Motor Company to participate in the Toyota Technician Education Program, which allows students to earn college credit while they obtain official certification from the University of Toyota for training modules they complete. This certification was previously given only to Toyota employees.

“Our Automotive Technology program is nationally renowned thanks to Dale’s leadership, dedication and expertise,” EMCC Vice President of Workforce and Community Services Dr. Raj Shaunak said. “He has worked hard to build this program and make it the success it is today.”

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MSU Students Show Their Skills in SEC Business Competition

AUBURN, AL – Courtesy of

A team of Mississippi State University business students took home top honors at the 4th annual SEC Student Pitch Competition, held this year at Auburn University on October 6-7. The competition allows students to promote their ideas for new and innovative business products to a panel of successful entrepreneurs and CEOs; this year’s final contest was a one-minute “elevator pitch.” Also among the winners was an application that the team had had to come up with ideas and promotions for – under pressure – earlier in the competition.

The winning team is comprised of Shelby Baldwin, Brandon Johns, and Calvin Waddy. They pitched Buzzbassador, a software that automates back-end services to help brands create ambassador and influencer programs.

Mississippi State University won first place in the 2019 SEC Student Pitch Competition – Team members are Shelby Baldwin (middle), Brandon Johns (left) and Calvin Waddy (right)
(courtesy photo)

“I’m speechless at the moment. What always strikes me at this competition is just how good the teams are. The top three this year were incredibly impressive, and the fact that they’ve built businesses that are generating revenue and have found real market needs is astounding,” said Eric Hill, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach in the College of Business at Mississippi State University. “You can’t make up what they’re doing. It doesn’t happen without a lot of work, and it’s humbling to see that recognized. I’m glad that this great team has been successful.”

“I’ve had an amazing experience at the competition,” said Baldwin. “It’s been inspiring to see all of the amazing businesses coming out of the SEC, and it was humbling and incredibly exciting to be voted the winner of the elevator pitch.”

The 2020 SEC Student Pitch Competition will take place next fall at the University of Georgia.

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