Category Archives: Government-related

Broadband Summit Opens Up Possibility of High-Speed Internet in Rural Areas

Broadband Summit Opens Up Possibility of High-Speed Internet in Rural Areas

HAMILTON, AL – Courtesy of WCBI

Last year, the Tombigbee Electric Cooperative began making high-speed internet available to some rural areas as part of a new program called “Freedom Fiber.”

“Fourteen miles east of the Mississippi line, some of the fastest internet speeds in the US at some of the cheapest prices are being offered, in some of the most rural parts of Alabama. If they can do it in Alabama, we can do it in Mississippi,” said Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley. This idea spurred Presley to hold a “Broadband Summit” at TEC’s offices in Hamilton, Alabama. The hope is that they will soon be able to make inroads towards making such services easily available to the people of Mississippi for a reasonable price.

While the results look promising, one hurdle that will need to be jumped is current Mississippi law, under which electric co-op’s are not allowed to provide internet service to rural areas, just power. They are hoping that the issue will be raised in earnest in the next legislative session: “That has to be changed by the legislature first and foremost and I think it will, beyond that we’ve got to sell the co-ops on it, it’s going to be a heavy investment on the co-ops,” said Rep. Steve Holland.

A federal initiative has set aside about $600 million in grants to fund infrastructure and other costs that will be required to expand high-speed internet to rural areas.

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MS SoS Sees Educated Workforce as Vital for State’s Future

MS SoS Sees Educated Workforce as Vital for State’s Future

STARKVILLE – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann speaks to Rotary Club members at the Starkville Country Club Monday – Photo by Luisa Porter, Dispatch Staff

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann spoke to the Starkville Rotary Club on Monday, emphasizing the importance of education in order to help further improve the state’s future workforce. He noted that this need not always mean a four-year college degree, and that proper training via career tech centers can be just as valuable for students who are willing to undertake whatever training suits them:”Taking that silo, where we have a university, junior college, a high school, all of that needs to be towards one goal and that one goal would be to have an educated workforce,” he said. “And about 60-70 percent of that educated workforce will not have a college degree. That’s critical — I want you to have that college degree if that’s what you want to do. If you want to work with your hands and be a plumber, you can come to Jackson in the winter and make a million dollars.”

Hosemann said that it is vital to expose students to as many different career path options as early as is practical in their education, to get youths interested in learning about career paths that suit their own interests and talents. He also noted that, while our Unemployment level is low at the moment, that number only includes adults who are actively looking for work, and have been doing so only up to a certain amount of time: “The most significant number that we have in Mississippi is not what our percentage unemployment is,” he said. “It is workforce participation. We are at 55 percent between 18 and 64 (years old). That number is one of the lowest in the country. . .If there were 65 percent working, we could build bridges everywhere,” he went on to say. “We could have schools everywhere. We’d have plenty of money to go around. We’d have another 100,000 or 200,000 people working in Mississippi.”

Please click here for the full article.

 

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Master Plan Has Been Approved for Starkville Athletic Complex

Master Plan Has Been Approved for Starkville Athletic Complex

STARKVILLE – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Starkville aldermen recently approved a contract with Dalhoff Thomas, a Memphis architecture firm. They are to be awarded $61,000  for a master plan of a proposed athletic complex at Cornerstone Park off Highway 25. Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker reports that this will become integrated with the master plan the city already has for its overall parks system. “This is for design purposes to get you to a master plan level,” he said. It is to be a basic, non-final plan/proposal for a possible athletic facility at Cornerstone Park, allowing the city to move ahead on getting the actual project in motion, pending approval.

Walker continued, “This is going to be the plan for us to decide how we want to do it, what we want to do and from that standpoint, there would be a separate contract that would go to construction documents to actually get the project built.” It will likely include things such as a projected square footage, drainage and other infrastructure requirements, et al.

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill (courtesy photo)

Mayor Lynn Spruill said that the city might be eligible to receive roughly 114 acres in Cornerstone Park from the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority. “That gives us a whole lot of options we can use because we keep McKee, we keep the Sportsplex, and we have a real serious competitive opportunity we can use here,” she said. She also pointed out that success in this venture would eliminate the need to acquire similar land nearer the existing facilities: “Unless Cornerstone has … a huge wetland issue for mitigation, then the amount of acreage we were looking at (near the Sportsplex) was half of what we’d get at Cornerstone,” she said.

“We want to do high-end ball fields,” Spruill went on to say. “We want to be as competitive or more competitive than anyone out there. We want to do amenities to go with it — maybe a splash pad or a batting area. A jogging track — it’s very easy to put something around a facility to allow other facilities.”

Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller commented: “When the Outlaw Center at the Sportsplex fills up or there’s an event going on, I’d like to make sure that our youth or whoever it might have the opportunity to play basketball in other parts of the city as well and have good, nice facilities just like everywhere else in the city.”

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New Tariffs May Pose Problem for Steel Dynamics

New Tariffs May Pose Problem for Steel Dynamics

COLUMBUS — Courtesy of The Dispatch

The Trump Administration recently announced that its 25% tariffs on steel – which had exempted the EU, Canada, and Mexico – will now be imposed unilaterally, triggering Mexico to retaliate in kind. Some are concerned that this could be bad news for Golden Triangle businesses, such as Steel Dynamics.

Mark Millet, CEO of SDI

During a January 2018 conference call, SDI President and CEO Mark Millett pointed out the Columbus flat-roll steel plant’s stellar role in boosting the company’s profits to record highs: “We, I think, shipped about 220,000 tons of automotive (steel) from Columbus just last year, which is a massive increase,” Millett told investors. “And we’re on platforms to increase that to about 400,000 tons over the next 18 months …We continue to gain market share, especially at the Columbus flat roll division with our focus on automotive direct sales. We also benefit there from a cost effective access into Mexico.”

Much of the local plant’s steel is exported to Mexican auto manufacturing plants. They imported roughly 3.7 metric tons of flat roll steel, according to the International Trade Assn.; this number made up about 2/3 of Mexico’s total steel imports that year.

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Yokohama Reports Significant Job Growth at West Point Facility

Yokohama Reports Significant Job Growth at West Point Facility

Stacey Perusse, senior human resources manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation’s West Point plant (Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff)

WEST POINT – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Yokohama Tire Corporation’s West Point plant opened in fall 2015. They have reported that they are “continually” hiring new employees, bringing the current total to over 650, despite having been here for only about three years. Senior Human Resources Manager Stacey Perussespoke to the Rotary Club recently: “About a year ago, we were right around 500 (employees),” she said. “We actually had a job fair here in Starkville last August and we had over 700 people come.” She reports that they hire about fifteen new people every Monday, and that they’re always looking for new talent; they start employees at $14.50/hr, with semiannual pay raises for the first six years.

Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said, “We’re pleased with Yokohama’s progress thus far,” Higgins said. “They have already exceeded all of their obligations for phase one, including employing more than 500 people and investing more than $300 million.”

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Planned Starkville Subdivision Seeking Roadway Variances

Planned Starkville Subdivision Seeking Roadway Variances

STARKVILLE – Courtesy of The Dispatch

John Tomlinson – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Starkville developer John Tomlinson is bringing the City a pair of variance requests for a proposed estate subdivision on the south side of Highway 182; the planned location will be between Long Lake and the Stark Road-Hwy 182 intersection. The planned variances are intended to allow for a sidewalk along Hwy 182 on the property’s northern edge, and an internal road with a walking path within the subdivision itself. No rezoning would be required.

Tomlinson stated that he would like to build the subdivision for 15 lots on about 22 acres of land.  “What we’re trying to do is replicate what’s on the east side, on Tally Ho Road,” he said. “We’re looking at the same type of road and construction. We think it’s got good topography. It’s got some good sight lines and lake view lines. That’s what we’re shooting for… We’d like the road to be narrow with no curb and gutter unless that’s what the engineer says that’s what we need,” Tomlinson later added. “We’re going to follow good environmental practices. We just don’t want to have to widen the road. We want to maintain the character of the site itself, as much as we can.”

Proposed subdivision overview (Courtesy of The Dispatch)

“I’m not in this to get rich, but I am in it to have a good place to retire,” Tomlinson went on to say. “If the city and planning folks will bear with us, I think it will be something Starkville can be proud of.”

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First Steps Toward Sandfield Re-Development Taken

First Steps Toward Sandfield Re-Development Taken

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Local developer Jabari Edwards, a Sandfield native, recently had the opportunity to take a good, hard look at his old stomping grounds. What he saw motivated him to do something about the urban blight and other issues that had brought the area to its current state. Thus, he decided to do something about it; “…I just thought to myself, ‘This isn’t the Sandfield I grew up in,'” Edwards said.

Jabari Edwards (photo courtesy of The Dispatch)

He is working with the Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State to come up with a comprehensive plan for redeveloping Sandfield, from 15th Street North to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. “We’re taking a holistic approach looking at overall well-being,” Edwards said. “What does it do for crime in the area, for kids going to school and for our employment base? … For me, this is a labor of love because this is my community,” he added. “No matter where I go, Sandfield will always be a part of me.”

A first, tangible step has already been taken – a former housing development on the corner of Martin Luther King and College Street was destroyed in a controlled burn session by the local Fire Department in a training exercise. This makes it just one of fifteen or so such controlled burns conducted in the last twelve months. Conducting these training exercises has the added benefit of helping the local FD to maintain its certifications, a notable contributor towards lowering home insurance rates.

After the dust settled, groundbreaking work was immediately begun on a dozen single-family homes that will be sold for prices ranging from about $100,000~120,000 each. This pricing structure, which will include both rent-to-own and traditional home sales, will also allow homebuyers (especially first-timers) to qualify for financial aid via Mississippi Home Corps, HUD, and other agencies. The hope is that the homes will all be ready within the next nine to twelve months, and will be simply the first step toward improving the area for residents old and new.

“We’re all trying to beautify the community and draw people here,” Fire Chief Martin Andrews said. “If we can do it legally and the right way, we try to help with new developments because they add value to the community and we need the training opportunities. So it’s a win-win.”

“These [blighted] properties were an eyesore in a main thoroughfare of the community,” Mayor Robert Smith commented. “… Everybody needs a nice place to live, and quality of life is important regardless of income. These will be nice homes that will enhance the neighborhood, and they should also reduce crime because when you remove blight, you remove a lot of the places where your criminals hang out. …We would hope whoever buys these homes (once they are completed in Sandfield) will take pride in their home and their neighborhood.”

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Lee Middle Redevelopment May Be Coming to Life Soon

Columbus Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday released possible future plans for the Lee Middle School property.

An anonymous developer purchased an option on the 15-acre site in November, and he plans to preserve most of the original school’s 1950s-era structure for reuse. He also intends to reuse and enhance as much of the remainder as possible “with the enhancement of Lee High School in mind,” the press release said. The second phase includes the construction of new buildings, making up a mixture of commercial retail and apartments.

John Acker – courtesy of the Dispatch

The city Board of Adjustments and Appeals will soon take into consideration the CRA’s request to change the property’s zoning from R-1 (single-family residential) to C-1 (neighborhood commercial).

During Phase 1 of the proposed re-development, which is estimated to cost between $3 and 5 million, the following changes are planned: Converting the existing cafeteria into a 16,000 sq.ft. restaurant or banquet space; a 24,000 sq.ft. multi-use venue/community center in the auditorium; and converting the gym into a 22,000 sq.ft. free-standing retail space. There are also plane to implement an apartment complex in the existing classroom buildings. Phase 1 is expected to be completed by January 2020.

Phase 2 would see a 4,000 sq.ft. restaurant in place of the front lawn and gym parking lot. Also, there are plans for a 90~100,000 sq.ft. mixed-use commercial space, to include both retail and residential areas. That phase is expected to cost $10 million.

The intention is that the plan will supply 50 to 100 construction jobs, 70 restaurant jobs, 40 to 80 free-standing retail space jobs, five to eight venue and apartment management jobs, and 25 to 30 part-time venue event jobs.

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Restaurant Tax’s Future Up In Air

Restaurant Tax’s Future Up In Air

Columbus – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Robert Smith and Harry Sanders – Courtesy photo

The fate of the joint Lowndes/Columbus 2% restaurant tax is currently being hotly debated, as it is due to expire at the end of June. It normally brings in about $2 million per year in tax revenue from restaurants that make over $325,000 per year in prepared food and beverage sales. One of the primary issues that caused the tax’s renewal to die in committee a few weeks ago was the debate over whether the $325K floor should be in there at all; without it, all restaurants would be assessed the tax; another is whether the city of Columbus should simply go ahead and assess its own version of the tax, should the State fail to reinstate it sometime soon. The tax revenue goes primarily to fund tourism, parks and economic development.

“My thing is that if our legislators aren’t going to take out the ($325,000) floor, we’d be crazy to send anything down there that says otherwise,” Columbus Mayor Robert Smith said. “Two-million dollars is at stake here. That’s what we have to remember. So if the only way to get this tax back in place is to have the floor, that’s what we would have to do. If that means the county isn’t a part of it, that’s their decision.”

Should the city move forward with its own tax, it may mean changing how the existing Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau’s is funded; the new tax, in this case, would provide said funding in lieu of the old one. Mayor Smith remarked that “[W]ith [CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter’s] contacts and experience, we’d be foolish not to use that. . . We’d have to do something about the board because if it were to be city only, we’d need a board with [only] city people on it. But as far as running tourism, I still think the CVB is the best way to do it.”

The county, in contrast, wants to remove the “floor” on the tax, but keep it the way it was – a joint county/city tax. Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders said, “The county has as much interest in tourism as anybody. . . We want to keep it exactly as it is, with the tax in place like it’s always been. … The only difference is taking away the floor because having that floor doesn’t make any sense. That’s been our position all along and I don’t see any reason why it would change.”

As it stands, if the tax is allowed to die later this year, any reinstatements or changes will have to wait until the Legislature reconvenes next January; this would mean losing out on a year or more of tax revenue. While it is theoretically possible to get a short-term, one-year version of the tax added to an upcoming State special session, it seems that it is unlikely that a local tax would be able to get onto the agenda at such a meeting.

Please click here for the full article.

Please click here for a Dispatch editorial on this topic.

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Dept of Commerce Invests $1.8 Million in Golden Triangle’s Future

Dept of Commerce Invests $1.8 Million in Golden Triangle’s Future

WASHINGTON, D.C. – From a Press Release Courtesy of the US Economic Development Association

Thad Cochran Research Park in Starkville – courtesy photo

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced yesterday that the Department’s Economic Development Administration is awarding a $1.8 million grant to the MSU Research & Technology Corporation of Starkville to help build the new Analytical Center for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis will be located at the Thad Cochran Research, Technology, and Economic Development Park.

“This project is the product of local leaders’ efforts to generate greater economic opportunities in Mississippi,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The new Analytical Center for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis will boost the state’s competitiveness by providing regional businesses with the support they need to grow while simultaneously delivering the critical workforce training necessary to help them thrive.”

The new facility will serve as an industrial resource by providing the instruments, equipment, and expertise businesses need to verify product integrity, support manufacturing, ensure quality control, and contribute to product development.

Please click here for the full press release.

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