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Business After Hours at the GTR Airport – Jan 17, 2019 (image gallery)

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce

This month’s Business After Hours was a rousing success! Here are some photos of the event, courtesy of the CoC:

Photo gallery above. Original post and more photos can be found here.

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Heritage Regains Distinction of Being an Apple Distinguished School

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Heritage Academy came within a hair’s breadth of missing out on its “Apple Distinguished School” designation this year, but they made it just in time; they are one of only two schools in the state to bear this distinction.

“All along the way, the primary focus was to enhance the learning experience for our students,” Headmaster Greg Carlyle said. “We were blown away. I immediately sent (the email) to Janet [Lewis, Director of Instructional Technology]. It’s one of those things, you work real hard and did all the leg work and you try to show what we are doing matters to our students. To have someone like Apple validate what we were doing, we were so proud. It just rises our standards and expectations. ”

Junior Anna Beth Brock uses Photoshop on her iPad in her graphic design class at Heritage Academy – Heritage was recognized as an Apple Distinguished School Thursday afternoon – courtesy photo

A major part of becoming an Apple Distinguished School is to have one Mac or iPad for every student and faculty member for at least two academic years running. Another is to incorporate technological instruction into the curriculum, as well as meeting high standards for both Apple-certified teachers and administrators.

Each high school student must own their own iPad for classroom use, and it is well-incorporated into the curriculum: “You get to do research instantly,” Junior Lauren Short said. “We use our iPads a lot to do our broadcasts and graphic design and I do all that on iPad. I use it a lot for online books and quizzes. There’s no delay. It’s definitely a privilege. You look at some schools, they don’t have any type of iPad, so just to be able to (do) immediate research.”

“I’ve been in education 35 years,” Spanish and French teacher Hope Friesen said. “So I’ve seen from no computers in a classroom to one to one. It’s making them prepare for their futures. Their future is technology. I believe if they don’t learn to incorporate it they will not be successful.”

Please click here for the full article.

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Regional Business After Hours for Jan 17, 2019

If you are a member of any of the area Chambers, Partnerships, etc…or if you just want to meet some good people and mingle, swing by for Business After Hours at the GTR Airport tonight!

Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce
Golden Triangle Development LINK
Greater Starkville Development Partnership

West Point Main Street

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European Journalists Flock to Visit Local Airbus Plant

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

German journalist Steffen Weyer was just one of over two dozen European journalists and Airbus reps who took in a tour of the Airbus facility while on the North American Airbus Tour. “It’s interesting to see how they’re built here and how they’re organized,” Weyer said.

He went on to say that the Hamburg, Germany Airbus location mostly produces airplanes, whereas the Columbus facility produces helicopters. He also said that he had no idea how large the facility was, nor of its community impact: “It is a very small city, but it seems that a company like Airbus comes here offers education and possibilities for people to stay here,” Weyer said. “I see that there is a effect (sic) when you see the employees talk about it. It seems that there’s something positive for the region but I don’t know the region.”

Airbus employees complete wiring on the Lakota UH-72A helicopter for the U.S. Army in Columbus on Tuesday morning - Mary Pollitz, Dispatch Staff
Airbus employees complete wiring on the Lakota UH-72A helicopter for the U.S. Army in Columbus on Tuesday morning – Mary Pollitz, Dispatch Staff

The Airbus North American tour began at their Canadian facility, followed by Columbus and then Mobile, AL, and was aimed primarily at visitors who were not part of the European operation.

Airbus, an international company, has nearly 25,000 employees worldwide, including its four locations in America. The Columbus location opened in 2006 and has nearly 200 employees who manufacture two to three Lakota Helicopters each month for the U.S. Army.

“I can’t tell you how that decision changed this region,” GTR LINK Joe MAx Higgins said. “I don’t know if we could have attracted Steel Dynamics or Paccar if it weren’t for (Airbus).”

Please click here for the full article.

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City Considering New Ways to Brighten Our Nights and Days


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COLUMBUS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

City councilmen are currently asking for proposals that would replace the city’s more than 4,300 traffic lights with LED bulbs, which shine brighter, and use much less energy, than traditional bulbs; 371 have already been replaced via smaller projects. They anticipate saving as much as $400 thousand per year by fulfilling such a project.

Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones, of Ward 5, was a dissenting vote, saying that “I wanted more time to look over it and research this company,” Jones told The Dispatch. “I’m open-minded to supporting the project, especially if it saves us money.” 

“Over the last few years, by us adding fixtures, adding lights at the request of the mayor and the council, that pot of money has gone up, so they’re continuing to pay more each year,” Columbus Light & Water Director Gale said. “I don’t see how their bill would ever go down unless they start taking lights out, and you know that’s not going to happen. 

“For someone trying to sell power, it’s not a good thing,” he added, referring to CLW’s potential lost revenue long-term. “(But) to be honest … if all the numbers work out, it’s kind of a no-brainer (for the city).” 

“The net savings would be more significant over time,” Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box said. “… I was totally against this at first, but when I found out how this would be structured, it became obvious to me it was a win-win.” 

It is believed that a secondary effect from the brighter lights would be a reduction in crime, due to increased visibility.

Please click here for the full article.

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GTR Breaks All-Time Passenger Record

STARKVILLE, MS – Courtesy of the Starkville Daily News

Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTR) experienced a ten percent growth in total passengers, blowing away its previous record. Airport officials stated that GTR handled nearly a hundred thousand passengers last year, setting an all-time high record for the second year in a row.

GTR Airport Executive Director Mike Hainsey

Airport Executive Director Mike Hainsey stated that, aside from the traditionally slow January, GTR was doing gangbusters all year long: “That’s really indicative of the business travel,” Hainsey said. “We’re an 80 percent business market and because the reliability is really good, and our on-time rate and cancelation rate is better than the industry average.”

Hainsey then explained how the airport calculates its totals, with 48,717 individual passengers booking both commercial and charter flights at GTR. Airport administration then takes that number and multiples it by two, under the assumption that those booking flights will also book return flights at the conclusion of their stay.

The total for 2018 far exceeds the 44,030 passengers recorded in 2017, and substantially more than the 41,095 GTR passengers reported in 2014.

Hainsey also stated that the growth of existing businesses in the area, and t their emphasis on customer service passengers receive at the airport were the main contributors to their success.

He also singled out the employees and staff at the airport saying, “We have seen a significant increase in the number of business travelers,” Hainsey said. “Even more important, the increase in the number of repeat customers tells me they like the way they are treated when they fly from GTR.”

Please click here for the full article.

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Interest Expressed in Buying Leigh Mall

Columbus, MS — Courtesy of the Dispatch

Will Kline, project manager for The Retail Coach of Tupelo, reports that a number of developers have expressed buying Leigh Mall. Kline’s firm has a contract with the city to assist with retail development.

The mall will be going up for auction Tuesday evening, along with a number of other properties owned by Security National Properties; the interested developers may have to wait for the results of that auction before they can proceed.

Leigh Mall on Highway 45 in Columbus is up for public auction as collateral on a defaulted loan. The auction is scheduled to take place Tuesday evening – File Photo from the Dispatch

While new ownership may not have an immediate effect on the mall, Kline said, “Ideally … a new owner comes to the table and breathes new life into the mall.” Many of the mall’s tenants have been lost in the past two years alone, including such stores as JCPenney, Sears, Payless, and Kirkland’s.

Joe Max Higgins, CEO for the Golden Triangle Development LINK, has stated in the past that there has been interest in purchasing and revitalization of the mall for some time.

The mall property’s assessed value is $12.1 million, according to the Lowndes County Tax Assessor’s Office.

Please click here for the full article.

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Regional Job Numbers are Up Overall

GOLDEN TRIANGLE AREA – Courtesy of the Starkville Daily News

Initial numbers put out by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security showed overall improvement in the Unemployment level in the region (from November 2017 to Nov. 2018), with Clay and Lowndes Counties’ numbers improving and Oktibbeha’s sliding a small amount. Most other counties included in the report also showed improvement.

The MDES reported that the November 2018 unemployment rate of 3.7% as the third lowest level of unemployment ever recorded for the state.

For more in-depth statistics and to read the original article, please click here.

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Revived 2-percent Food and Drink Tax Intended to Promote Tourism, Development, and More

COLUMBUS/LOWNDES – Courtesy of The Dispatch

As Lowndes County’s somewhat controversial 30-year-old restaurant sales tax expired back in June, a replacement tax has been proposed which seems to have near-universal support in the Legislature. Should it be approved, this previously-expired tax will bring back the 2% restaurant tax for the area. Note that this would only affect Columbus eateries whose total food & beverage sales exceed $100 thousand per year.

$400K of the expected revenue has been earmarked for the City, another $300K has been reserved for the County for use in “tourism, special events, recreation and entertainment,” and a further $250K for the GTR LINK’s economic development services. The remainder will go to the CVB.

Gary Chism (left) and Jeff Smith

“When it gets down here, it may very well have a direct referendum added (which would require a citizen vote before the tax could be enacted),” said Rep. Gary Chism (R-Lowndes County), who serves on the House Local and Private Committee that handles such sales tax legislation. “This is the way I drafted the bill because that is what the city and county wanted (in their resolutions), and I support it.”

Mayor Robert Smith reports that the City intends to use its share of the projected revenues to help pay for an estimated $1.6 million in ball field improvements at Propst Park, as well as building the second phase of the Sen. Terry Brown Amphitheater at The Island.

Supervisors’ President Harry Sanders stated that the County is considering using its share to make a “regional” sports complex.

Kudos to the Dispatch for staying on top of this!

Please click here for the full article.

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You May Soon Be Able to Get Broadband Internet from Your Power Co-op

GOLDEN TRIANGLE – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Counties statewide — including Lowndes and Oktibbeha — have been signing resolutions en masse that support the idea of allowing (not requiring) local electric co-ops to provide broadband internet service to their customers, an idea which has been gaining significant traction over the past 20+ years. They are doing so in order to try and persuade the state legislature to change an old law mandating that rural co-ops provide electricity and nothing else.

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, is a major force in favor of this idea: “Electric cooperatives bringing broadband service is happening in 107 cooperatives around the country and in every state bordering Mississippi, but it’s not happening here,” Presley said.

Presley also said that, as of this writing, 27 counties and 57 cities across Mississippi have passed resolutions in favor of this change to the law. The Mississippi Farm Bureau, the Mississippi Association of Realtors and the American Association of Retired Persons have given their support, as well.

Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders

“It’s gone from being a luxury to a necessity,” Presley said. “There’s no way for rural people to be able to participate in the modern economy without being connected to the internet. I believe every Mississippian should have access to internet service.” He also stated that this could be done with no cost to the state, as the physical infrastucture is already in place.

Harry Sanders, president of the Lowndes County Board of supervisors, said, “The main reason we did that is so there can be internet service to rural areas of the county…The utilities already have the poles and everything already there and it’s the easiest way to provide internet to rural areas.”

Please click here for the full article.

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