Category Archives: Business

GTR Coding Academy in Columbus Producing New Programmers

Columbus, MS — Courtesy of the Dispatch

“I never would have imagined I would end up here,” said Kingdom McGee, a graduate of the Columbus school’s first-ever graduate class. “It’s sort of surreal going from things looking pretty bleak and ending up with a job that’s really a start to my career.” He went from being stuck at home with devastating health issues to a job with the Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, and all at a tuition-free vocational school.

Golden Triangle Coding Academy coders Broderick Cattladge, Kayla Woodard, Leigh Jones, Angela Pugh and Kingdom McGee celebrate graduating on Saturday at the Waverly Country Club
Courtesy photo by Chauncey Magnum

The GTR Coding Academy in Columbus, an affiliate of MSU, is one of two in Mississippi (the other is in Jackson). The schools’ aim is to provide training and coding instruction for serious students and also to help them find jobs in the industry. Director Sarah Lee, MSU engineering professor, stated that their ultimate desire to expand students’ opportunity for success in technical fields.

“It’s to create more computing pathways for people in Mississippi,” Lee said. “Not everyone is the same so not everyone is on a pathway to college. We don’t all fit into the same mold. In order to increase the pool of technical talent in the state, we have to think outside the box.”

“They said, ‘we like what we see,'” McGee went on to say. “I was floored. Before, I thought that my opportunity was gone. That moment was life changing for me.” McGee said that wouldn’t have happened had it not been for his education at the coding academy, which taught him to never stop learning and to grow with technology as it progresses.

“There’s no telling where my job might lead me,” McGee said. “I’m pretty easy-going and I’m eager to see what else is out there for me. My past two years have been truly blessed. You can’t write or make this stuff up. I have a creative background and coding is another one of those outlets for me and people want to pay me to do this.”

“It’s life changing for those students who complete the program and are able to go into employment,” Lee said. “It’s also a positive thing for the state in that we are increasing the tax base and increasing the pool for qualified persons for technical jobs, which hopefully will result in more companies coming to Mississippi and providing those jobs.”

Lee said that the academy will be accepting applications for the next class which will start in July. Each applicant undergoes an interview & board review process. Those interested can apply online at mscodingacademy.org.

“When you’re working in a technical field, you have to be a lifelong learner because the technology is changing so rapidly,” Lee said. “The learning doesn’t stop after you graduate. It’s taken them from either unemployment or hourly wage employment to professional positions and working in a professional environment with a competitive salary in the state.”

Click here for the full article.

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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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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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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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More and More Historic MS Businesses Getting Restored and Revitalized

TUPELO/GOLDEN TRIANGLE – Courtesy of the Daily Journal

A growing number of Northeast Mississippi entrepreneurs are investing money into restoring historic properties for commercial use, helping to turn old structures into viable businesses. The amounts spent on projects such as these have kept going up (and up and up!) over the past decade or so. thanks to tax incentives offered to those who wish to put in the work.

Columbus Developer Chris Chain has been a pioneer in this space over the past three decades, renovating 150 structures across the state in that time: “You are always going to have people interested in living downtown, so it kind of gives you a niche in the market for living space,” Chain said. “It’s hard work but it gives you a lot of pride when you can rebuild something and recapture that heritage, when you walk into these apartments they are going to have high ceilings, skylights, hard flooring; beautiful features that you just cannot get anymore . . . You can’t rebuild these back the way they were, it’s just too expensive, so restoration is the way to do it,” he went on to say.

According to data supplied by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 94 percent of the state historic tax credit funding from 2006 onwards have been utilized for commercial projects like these, indicating the popularity of the tax and the eagerness of developers to restore these buildings. Roughly half of all such renovation projects are used for commercial purposes, with others focused on residences and the like.

Chain noted that developers interested in historic renovation have access to other incentives as well, such as those offered by energy companies. For instance, he saved 25 percent on the lighting for a project via one such program.

Please click here for the full article.

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