Grenada Looks to Columbus Main Street for Inspiration

WCBI did a nice piece on a recent visit by Grenada city leaders to Columbus. The  downtown Columbus area grew by leaps and bounds in the mid 2000’s under the leadership of Jan Miller and Amber Brislin. Main Street Columbus has become the gold standard for the state, and now Director Barbara Bigelow is at the helm of the organization.

Bigelow had this to say:

Barbara Bigelow of Columbus Main Street (Image credit The Commercial Dispatch)

Barbara Bigelow of Columbus Main Street (Image credit: The Commercial Dispatch)

“Very often we forget what a jewel we have here and we are reminded when other people want to come and mimic our downtown and our community and do what we’ve done to make our communities better.”


WCBI has more on the story. Read the full article at the link below:



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Railways Keep Major Industry Chugging Along in the GTR

Railways Keep Major Industry Chugging Along in the GTR

COLUMBUS, Miss. (Courtesy of WCBI) –wcbi rail story

While some large businesses in the Golden Triangle have elected not to use rail to aid in transporting raw materials and finished goods, others, such as Weyerhauser and Yokohama, embrace it. Rail transport has been reported to be one of the major factors in granting a competitive advantage when it comes to landing large business contracts; it also provides an economical means of transport that is not dependent upon road or river conditions in order to function properly. Yokohama spent about $7 million to bring a railroad spur out to their West Point facility, where it is an indispensable part of their process.

For more information, please click the link below:

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Hardee’s on 45 Gets a Great New Look Inspired by Columbus Itself

Hardee’s on 45 Gets a Great New Look Inspired by Columbus Itself


hardees starThe Hardee’s  on Hwy 45 recently held their Grand Re-opening, showcasing their newly-expanded and renovated dining room. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the event, which marked the culmination of a several-months-long expansion and complete remodeling of the dining area, which was extended by about ten feet. The interior was completely redesigned, and now includes a curvy seating section with large circular booths for families or other large groups; the addition of new tables in order to handle more customers at a time; and a raised “bar” section with stools, wi-fi, and outlets for laptops/chargers. Long-time patrons of the store will be glad to know that the restrooms have been totally redone, as well, and moved inside the actual main building. Imagery meant to evoke the city of Columbus itself – including a prominent mural representing The W– serves a distinctive feature of the venue.

I’d like to applaud the ownership group for their investment in improving and completely remodeling their property – it helps our community, and our tax base. As with a many other businesses featured on this blog, the ownership is all local. Their food in general – and especially their fresh-made, hot breakfast biscuits, have been a hit with locals for many years, now, as has their friendly, smiling staff. Come on out and give them a try sometime!

Image courtesy of

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Starkville Officials Skeptical on LINK

starkville-mississippiThe Starkville Board of Aldermen voted to retain a retail strategist and cut ties with the Golden Triangle Development LINK this week in regards to retail development. Since I write this blog from a pro-business stance, don’t be shocked at what I’m about to say, but what the heck are they doing? Starkville already has a statewide reputation for being anti-business. It kept the Mill from being redeveloped for nearly 20 years, and that reputation has been the only blight on an otherwise thriving town for nearly as long.

Now, some on the board are intentionally insulting an organization that has brought in nearly $5 BILLION in industrial development into our area over the last 12 years. Call up a few Columbus City Councilmen who were in power in the early 2000’s and ask them if they would fund the Golden Triangle Industrial Park for $750,000 if they had another shot. That paltry investment would have given about $4 Million to the cash-strapped city of Columbus this year – and every year moving forward (with more $$ to come!)

But, the Columbus Council was – in reality – much less to blame at the time than the Starkville Aldermen are now. Joe Max Higgins and his team at the LINK were the most recent of a long line of groups that had told elected officials in the Golden Triangle that “If you build it, they will come.” But, unlike the large plots of empty grass and concrete that litter industrial parks around our state, the LINK made it happen. That is the issue. Starkville’s Alderman think they know better, but they don’t seem to have the track record to prove it – the LINK does.gtr link

I understand that retail development, quite often, is what gets voters excited. The news of a new Cracker Barrel in Columbus was the top local news story in a year where three major retailers and two hotels broke ground (oh, and about $400 Million in expansion at the industrial park.) But, folks need to realize that all the hotels, restaurants and stores that come to the Golden Triangle come here because of two reasons: The growth of the industrial sector, and the growth of Mississippi State.

“Retail development is a direct result of industrial development,” said LINK head Joe Max Higgins some years back. If someone gets a job paying $70,000 a year, they generally pump at least $20,000 of that into their local economy on discretionary spending alone. Great jobs create good jobs, and the income attracts retail operations. The Highway 45 corridor in Columbus is light years ahead of where it was ten years ago. Is that from the city? Doubtful. The City of Columbus has lost almost all industry, and is still gaining retail at a rapid pace – did a taxpayer-paid recruiter bring them here? No, they came because the job base is growing…but, most don’t see it. Now, look six miles West to the industrial park, and you will see why Columbus has become the retail center for the Golden Triangle. It’s the giant industrial park with three billion dollars invested in it.

The growth of Mississippi State may be the actual issue for the elected officials in Starkville. I’m pretty sure that some of them are under the impression that the school is getting bigger because of some of their actions. Don’t get me wrong, MS State is becoming a powerhouse- I have no doubts about that, and Starkville is a “college town,” no question there. But, the citizens of Starkville need to demand more for their (relatively high) taxes. More infrastructure, more vision, and more ideas.

assureLogoThe fear I have for Starkville is that, if the “education bubble” bursts – or even continues to leak – the town will need some heavy hitters to carry the load for a while. Mississippi State, much like the State of Mississippi itself, is heavily dependent on federal tax dollars. The University, with some help from the LINK, has leveraged those dollars into research and development. These investments have already paid off handsomely, as the school was recently named as the National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems – that’s like being NASA for drones, people. The university is working with the future in mind; I’d just like to see some more forward thinking from the city and county.

Starkville can, and should, have it all. They should have boutiques, and eateries, but they also need some factories to keep good people working. All of the Golden Triangle is nearing a critical stage in its development; West Point is on the rebound, Columbus has seen the first indications of population growth in 30 years, and Starkville is absolutely blowing up.

It’s my opinion that the entire Golden Triangle needs to work together to welcome business to the area. Major industry doesn’t worry a heck of a lot about local officials; they really don’t. They want the state officials on board – the ones with the big money. These industries care about a trained workforce, available infrastructure, and quality of life for prospective employees.

But, guess who does care how business-friendly a town is? Retail business owners. They are the guys who go to the internet to find out if a town might welcome them. They don’t drive down the main drag in town and marvel at independent boutiques and avant-guarde eateries. They want a strong economy, other major chains, and a local government welcoming them with open arms.

Starkville is on fire – in a very good way. Let’s get some s’mores ready for these businesses instead of tossing them on the grill.

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Community Colleges in Mississippi Ranked #1


The Golden Triangle of Mississippi (Columbus, Starkville, West Point) is fortunate to be the home of East Mississippi Community College (EMCC), part of the nation’s best community college system. EMCC has , over the last ten years, intentionally positioned itself as the  main training ground for industry in the region. With over 4 billion dollars of new industrial development in our area in the last 12 years, the school saw the need for workforce training and jumped in to action. EMCC now trains hundreds of students for the bevy of new jobs at local factories, many earning in excess of $30,000 w/benefits in the first year on the job.

EMCC is more than good for business, they are a huge part of why the big businesses come to town in the first place. Ready, willing, and trained workers are a priority for major companies looking to build a new facility.



– See more at:

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Starkville School Shuffle Could Impact Real Estate

Starkville School Shuffle Could Impact Real Estate


stk-ok schoolFor the second time in just two short years, parents of students in the recently-consolidated Starkville Oktibbeha County Consolidated School District may find their children in a new school. I’m not here to opine about the causes of the issues that the schools and government leadership in Oktibbeha have on their hands, but the effect it could have on home prices.

Starkville is keeping pace with major market trends nationwide, with many homes selling at peak prices, and in a very short time. The recent school moves in 2014-15 saw many homeowners selling their properties to move up or over in order to insure that their child was in what they consider a top school district. As price trends continue to rise in the area,  fueled by the continued growth of the university, many parents with children in public schools find themselves unable to afford homes in the realigned districts – or even unable to find a home for sale. Now, the changes to the school districts appear to be forcing a few families to switch around again.

Oktibbeha County and Starkville are in a difficult spot, especially with the Justice Department’s involvement. Let’s hope they can keep the changes to a minimum.



(Courtesy of WCBI) –

Some students and schools would be realigned in order to comply with federal guidelines on racial balance within the new district … The proposal would move all K – 5 students at East Elementary School into existing elementary schools of the district. The plan moves rising fifth graders to Overstreet and rising second graders to Ward Stewart. The plan, which would go into effect in August, does not include changes at West Elementary School.

The board will have a special called meeting on February 23rd. There are also several sessions for employees, parents and stakeholders. The first is Thursday night at East Elementary at 5:30pm.

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Mississippian Appointed Chairman of UPS

Mississippian Appointed Chairman of UPS

UPS CEO David Abney. Photo credit: UPS/courtesy image

UPS CEO David Abney.Photo credit: UPS/courtesy image

Mississippi’s own David Abney, who was born in Greenwood, worked his way to the top of international shipping giant UPS over the course of a long career, starting in 1974 in his hometown of Greenwood. Abney was recently elected as Chairman of the company by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors. He also served as COO since 2007, CEO since 2014, and former President of UPS International. He is also a Trustee of The UPS Foundation, and Chairman of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta.

How does it help to have a local in that position? Abney will have first-hand knowledge of the ample warehouse facilities and inter-modal options in our great state (many of which are located in the Starkville-Columbus area). It’s not that he can necessarily influence business our way, but he will be a powerful voice in the company who can help get Mississippi to the table to compete. Any person of influence from the state helps – even in the smallest of ways. It might only be a small chance that he remembers a friend of a friend who told him about an affordable building for lease in rural Lowndes County…but, his small decisions at UPS have a lot of zeros behind them.

It is ALWAYS good for business to have friends in high places!

Some info courtesy of UPS Pressroom. Please click here for more information.

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Oby’s In Starkville Finishes “Best in State” for Sandwiches, Columbus’ United Deli Near Top

Oby’s In Starkville Finishes “Best in State” for Sandwiches, Columbus’ United Deli Near Top

Oby's Mufellata. Pic credit: Joe R. Bumgardner of

Oby’s Mufellata. Pic credit: Joe R. Bumgardner of

Best of the best??? The writers at the quirky site “” picked Oby’s as the best sammich shop in Mississippi this past week. As a New Orleans native, I’ve been a big (in the waist) fan of the Cajun eatery for years now. Their hot roast beef, oyster po-boys and gumbo are hard to beat! Another favorite place to chow-down, United Deli in East Columbus, also topped the list. I’m so happy for my main man Mr. John. His Gyros and French Dips are second to none, and I think his french bread is the best you’re gonna find outside of Louisiana.

So proud for both of our local spots – any attention is good attention…and definitely good for business!!

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Mr. Freeman and Mrs. America Tour North Mississippi

Actor Morgan Freeman (stock photo)

Mr. Freeman and Mrs. America Tour North Mississippi

The current reigning Mrs. America, Madeline Gwin, and legendary actor Morgan Freeman made appearances in Mississippi this last week. Freeman stopped in Tupelo to accept an honor from the Boy Scouts, and Mrs. America toured several schools in West Point. What does this have to do with business, you may ask? You see, it always good to get attention- especially positive attention.

Mississippi seems to have a certain knack for showing up on the national news for bad news. Failing education, comical political moves and national disasters are our specialties. But, to have an award-winning actor and a beauty queen swing by, it helps to show we aren’t just a wasteland of a society. Especially in the case of Freeman, most of the moves he makes are taken in a positive light.

Mrs America 2015, Madeline Gwin (courtesy photo)

Mrs America 2015, Madeline Gwin (stock photo)

And that light shines on our state.

Click the links below for more information:

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American Futures: Manufacturing Returns to Columbus, Mississippi

American Futures: Manufacturing Returns to Columbus, Mississippi


The Golden Triangle Development LINK is such a vital organization to our area. The premier economic development agency in the South, the LINK has brought nearly 5 billion dollars in business to the Golden Triangle in just over ten years. When big business does good, so does small business. Columbus, Starkville and West Point are lucky to have the best team in Mississippi working for us. Companies such as Steel Dynamics credit the GTR LINK with facilitating the complex process of incorporating in the area and running a business here. Locals who have found work at these newly-arrived major companies thank area schools such as EMCC for providing them with the skills needed to succeed and thrive there.

American Futures brings us a documentary about the rebirth of Colu,bus

American Futures brings us a documentary about the rebirth of Columbus

Here’s a piece the Atlantic did on the LINK recently, including a mini-documentary about the amazing revitalization of Columbus as a manufacturing nexus in the South:

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