Author Archives: Colin Krieger

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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MSU and ARC Join Forces to Bring Hi-Tech Education to Our Students

Starkville, MS – Courtesy of the Starkville Daily News

The Appalachian Regional Commission and MSU recently announced that they will be granting over $265 thousand to a fund that will be used to buy computer education equipment for Mississippi students that will include support for cybersecurity learning, among other important subjects. The gear will be accessible from long distance, helping students statewide.

MSU Department of Computer Science and Engineering Assistant Department head Sarah Lee gave some more details: “The proposal is a collaborative project with Mississippi State and the coding academy to provide cybersecurity education to K-12 (level) through workforce development,” Lee said. “You know, sandwiched in between the middle and high school and the workforce development is obviously the college age, but also we’re going to partner with some community colleges. . .

“We’re helping people develop the skills that they need to be successful in the digital economy,” Lee said.

She went on to say that, while the grant will initially serve the state’s 24 ARC-served counties, she hoped the program would grow to serve the entire state and surrounding states eventually.

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Geico Donates Vehicle to MSU for Training

[PRESS RELEASE] Courtesy of WCBI – Starkville, MS

Two businesses partnered up to give Mississippi State University a nearly new vehicle for training in the school’s extension service.

GEICO donated the truck through its “Recycled Rides” program. Bob’s Paint and Body in Columbus volunteered time and labor to refurbish it to “like-new” condition.

Representatives from the MSU Foundation accepted the gift Tuesday morning.

Geico reps said this is just an extension of the good working relationship they have with the university.

“We do a lot of career fairs and recruitment from Mississippi State, so it’s a really good pipeline for us. And we saw some of the budget concerns there, and so hopefully this truck will be a good addition to help let them use that money for other things,” said GEICO claims supervisor Cole Phelps.

Mississippi State will use the truck to assist rural farmers with training and development for the future of their locally owned and operated farms.

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MSU’s Park Cafe Open and Ready to Serve (and Caffeinate) Hungry Students

STARKVILLE, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

The Park Cafe at MSU had its formal opening Tuesday – Courtesy photo

The Park Cafe, located on Technology Boulevard in Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park at MSU, has had its soft opening and ribbon cutting, and they’re now open to the public for 3 hours a day on weekdays.

Their offerings will include catfish, sandwiches, salads and other lunches, and coffee. The cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and closed on weekends.

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City resolves the Missing LINK

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

The City of Columbus has announced that they will be reestablishing their partnership with the GTR LINK, albeit under different conditions than their prior agreement. The two had parted ways about a year ago, when the city chose to give Tupelo’s The Retail Coach a try; TRC’s contract will end on October 15.

Photo: LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins with our own Colin Krieger and Lauren Buntin From the MS Industrial Development Association

“We are pleased to see the city and county working together on economic development,” said LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins in a statement. “We will not be replacing the retail services of their previous provider. We will continue (to) provide technical support for retail projects as well as workforce development, existing business expansion and retention, new business attraction and development, and research and planning services as outlined in our services contract with Lowndes County.”

However, this will leave the city without a company responsible for retail recruitment. The LINK had once covered that role, but “Now that we represent three counties and our staff is changing, we do not have the manpower to address retail that way,” LINK Chief Operations Officer Macaulay Whitaker said.

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Superior Catfish Begins Work on New Expansion Plant in Macon

MACON, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Groundbreaking has taken place at the Noxubee County site which will one day host a new catfish processing plant, bringing a number of new jobs to the county. The new, larger plant will replace the old one, which will become dry storage space. The estimated cost is $17 million, and it is expected to bring in 25 local jobs for the plant as well as 50-60 construction jobs. They expect to be ready for business in January 2021. The expectation is that it will bring with it a 20-25% production capacity increase for local farmers.

“I get a bigger satisfaction out of an announcement like this in rural Mississippi than I do with the bigger announcements,” said Mickey Milligan, chief economic development officer for the Mississippi Development Authority. “This is very meaningful to Macon and Noxubee County.”

rom left to right, District 3 Noxubee County Supervisor Sherman Patterson, Noxubee County Board of Supervisors President Eddie Coleman, Superior Catfish General Manager Fred Johnson, District 42 Rep. Carl Mickens, Merlinda Oliver, Chief Economic Developer Micky Milligan and District 1 Supervisor Larry Tate toss dirt in the air during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday at Superior Catfish in Macon. The expansion of the plant will create an additional 25 jobs. Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff 

“My heart is overwhelmed today because of this project,” Noxubee County District 1 Supervisor Larry Tat said. “Anytime you can sustain jobs and make an addition to what you’ve already got, that’s a plus. You don’t see that happening around the state of Mississippi, (but) it’s happening right here in Noxubee County today.”

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