4-County’s Foundation Has Donated Over $1 Million To Date

GOLDEN TRIANGLE, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

4-County Electric Power Association Foundation recently announced that they have donated more than $1 Million in grants to schools, charitable organizations, and others over the years. The primary source of that funding is an optional program whereby their customers can round their power bills up to the next dollar – and an impressive 93% of their customers have chosen to do just that.

4-county CEO Brian Clark
(courtesy photo)

4-County CEO Brian Clark called the awards a “monumental achievement. . . It’s hard to truly measure the impact the 4-County Foundation has had for organizations involved in our service area,” he went on to say. “Thanks to 4-County members, the Foundation board, the 4-County board and its employees, we’ve been able to enhance the quality of life for our members. … One million dollars given away is special.”

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BankFirst Expanding; Shops New and Old in the News

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch


BankFirst President and CEO Moak Griffin recently announced their acquisition of Traders and Farmers, an Alabama bank with nine branches, Griffin said the GTR will benefit Columbus in a big way: “With our headquarters being (in Columbus), it’s a big difference,” Griffin said. “We will definitely be adding more jobs to Columbus, but I would hate to put a number on it,” he continued. “We will be hiring people in Starkville, Columbus, and Macon to help us with this acquisition…As we buy banks in other parts of Mississippi and Alabama, it is just going to benefit Columbus because we continue to hire people as we grow.”

Brunini Grantham Grower Hewes Law Firm will be moving from Main St to Brickerton at the beginning of March. Gordon Flowers, attorney with Brunini Law, said that “We just have excess space and have had for quite some time,” Flowers said. “We are just relocating to (Brickerton). …We will continue to operate as a firm and to our Columbus clients, just as we always have.”

The Columbus Palmer Home Thrift Store on S. Main St. is being temporarily shut down for maintenance. They expect to reopen in 4~6 weeks. Their Starkville location at 422 Hwy 12 will remain open.


Consignment shop Secret Hidden Treasures, has opened for busines at 26046 W. Main St. For the time being, on days when they are open, you can shop from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., or you can shop by appointment by giving Gibbs a call at 662-524-0804. “We don’t have very many consignment shops here,” owner Christiann Gibbs said. “I think it’s a very nice place for people to get great deals and it’s a good thing for the community.” The West Point Main Street Growth Alliance will hold a ribbon cutting Friday at 11 a.m.


We previously mentioned sub shop Jersey Mike’s; they are now serving up sammiches at 831 Hwy. 12 W. Suite D. Jersey Mike’s is open every day from 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

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Lowndes Solar Energy Plant Approved by TVA

LOWNDES COUNTY, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

We recently reported on a proposal before the TVA to obtain funding to allow Origis Energy to construct and operate a 350MW solar energy plant in the county; a smaller proposal, for a 200MW facility, was approved, though indications are that something more ambitious might be possible at some point in the future. The accepted version of the project will also be able to store 50MW worth of backup power in order to account for issues such as inclement weather.

Johan Vanhee, chief commercial and procurement officer for the renewable energy company Origis Energy, “I don’t think they were comfortable with going with the 350MW at this point, but we’re optimistic that we may be able to pursue that at some point in the future,” Vanhee said.

According to Origis, the 200MW facility will include 650,000 solar panels, and will be capable of providing power to 45,920 homes.

Vanhee went on to say that the EPA must first conduct an environmental study of the site, which is likely to take up to a year to complete. Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2021, with temporary jobs available for “hundreds of workers” (mostly unskilled), and permanent ones for a handful once the facility is up and running.

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Starkville’s Carry Out: 34 Years and Still Going Strong

STARKVILLE, MS – Courtesy of the Starkville Daily News

Billy Petty, owner of Carry Out since opening it in 1986, has been serving up good eats to locals and tourists alike for over three decades, and he hopes to keep doing so for many more.

Billy and Shannon Perry (l-r) stand inside the kitchen at Petty’s Carry Out
– Emma Moffett-Taylor, SDN

“My wife used work at a place they called Mr.Cook on campus,” Petty said. “So, we lived in a trailer park, and I had saved up a little money and said, ‘We could do this ourselves so let’s just put our money in our own restaurant.’”

Supporting our local entrepreneurs helps to keep local business thriving and local people working, and THAT’S Good for Business!

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WorkKeys Exam Helping to Prepare Students for Good Jobs in Business

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Columbus High School Principal Craig Chapman recently spoke about the WorkKeys exam, which seeks to help determine students’ readiness for work in local industry, entrepreneurship, and more. It is issued by the same company that administers the ACT test, and is taken alongside it by high school seniors. He remarked that, “Now we have so many students who are eager to be a part of this, they’re speaking about it. … Talking about, ‘What can I do? How can I be a part of this?'”

CHS students review practice questions for the WorkKeys exam – courtesy photo

CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat said that recognizing workforce-ready skills in the modern day is just as important as assessing academic college readiness, especially in a heavily-industrialized area such as the GTR: “In a high school that doesn’t have the socio-economic background as our particular district, one in three students in America will go to college,” Labat said. “… In districts of poverty, that number may go from one in seven to one in 10. They don’t have that option and are not going to college, so what are we really preparing them for if they don’t have a trade, don’t have a skillset or an assessment that could open the door for an opportunity to higher wages and a better standard of living?”

“In the Golden Triangle area, we’re … blessed and inundated with a lot of industry,” said Lowndes County Career Tech Center Director Susan McClelland. “With that being said, I think it just helps children to be prepared to move right into the workplace …”

The WK exam is comprised of three sections: applied math (subjects such as geometry and the ability to calculate discounts); workplace documents (e.g. policies, letters and memos); and graphic literacy (reading of charts and interpreting data). The overall score is equivalent to whichever score on the three sections is lowest, thus encouraging students to re-take sections where they have fallen short. Intensive prep and practice sessions are provided to the students prior to the tests.

In the Starkville-Oktibbeha CSD, more and more students are expressing interest in the program, said Lenora Hogan, director of the district’s Millsaps Career and Technology Center: “In (the 2016-2017 school year), we had 68 students to take it,” Hogan said. “… This past year we had 153 to take it…Every year, after (students) leave, I’ll have them come back and say, ‘Man, Dr. Hogan, I wish I had taken the WorkKeys. Now I’m having to pay to take it because I want this job,'” she said.

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Massive New Solar Farm May Bring the Light to Lowndes if all Goes Well

LOWNDES COUNTY, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

MS Solar 5, a branch of solar energy company Origis Development, is in talks to discuss a deal that could bring a $2 million solar power plant, and its attendant jobs and tax revenue, to Lowndes County. The idea still needs to get approved by the TVA before moving forward, but prospects look bright. “If Origis and TVA come to terms, then this project will happen,” GTR LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said. He went on to say that, should the project get approved, construction could be underway as soon as this SPring, and the plant could be ready to provide power by Fall 2020.

The eventual plan for the solar farm is to get it to the point where it could generate 350MW of power annually – to put that in perspective, that’s enough to run Steel Dynamics’ facility all on its own; SD is the TVA’s biggest customer.

The solar farm, if built, would initially generate 200 megawatts each year, with the potential of further expansion to reach an annual rate of 350 megawatts in the future, Higgins said.

The site, planned to cover hundreds of acres, would be located west of Charleigh Ford Drive and go all the way south to the northern border of the Infinity Megasite, Higgins said.

“It’s gonna pay about $400,000 in taxes to Lowndes County (each of the first 10 years under the fee-in-lieu agreement),” Higgins said, “and it’s gonna pay more than that… probably close to $500,000 in county school taxes each year.”

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Female Entrepreneurs Doing Plenty of Business in the GTR

GOLDEN TRIANGLE REGION, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Misty McCraw and Kaitlin Mullins are the masterminds behind Golden Triangle Business Women, a group which seeks to help fellow women entrepreneurs to start and run their own businesses in the GTR area. having started last year, the group now includes roughly twenty total members, and they’re always looking for more, as each business owner has their own ideas, their own ways of doing things, and their own experiences that can help with others to develop their strategies and thrive in this market.

“We have people at meetings from all different industries, from all three counties, people from in their 20s to in their 50s,” said McCraw. “It’s really an all-inclusive group no matter what stage (of business) you are, from people who just have a business idea and aren’t really sure how they want to start that business, to people who have been in business for several years. They may be established but may want to try some new things.”

Golden Triangle Business Women organizers Misty McCraw of West Point, left, and Kaitlin Mullins of Starkville – Courtesy photo

Mullins said, “I think what I like most is just meeting with other women and knowing that other people are in my situation. And the resources that have been brought in have been really helpful to all of us.”

The group holds monthly in-person meetings, and has now added weekly online meetups and support courses to help their members to learn more. Memberships are $10 per month or $100 for a year. This modest fee helps to offset the costs involved in gathering materials, t-shirts, events, guest speakers, and the like: “Every dollar goes back into the group in one aspect or another,” said McCraw.

Helen Reeves, director of radiology at NMMC in West Point, had this to say: “(The group) has been very inspiring. We’ve had a lot of speakers that have exposed us to ways to help grow your business that you wouldn’t have come up with on your own,” Reeves continued. “We’ve also had speakers that told us of their hardships and what they learned … to help you meet your expectations quicker, avoid some of those trials and errors they’ve gone through so you don’t have to repeat them.”

The next Golden Triangle Business Women meeting is Feb. 17. For more information, go to, email, or visit the group’s Facebook page.

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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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