Author Archives: Colin Krieger

New Amazon Facility Coming to Golden Triangle

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the GTR LINK

A new facility that Amazon will be using for “last mile” delivery services will soon be coming to the NorthStar Industrial Park near Starkville. The 50,000-square-foot facility is expected to bring 90 new jobs to the area once it is up and running. The project was the result of a collaborative effort among Agracel, The LINK, and the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority.

Lynn Spruill stated that “As OCEDA president and as the Mayor of Starkville, I couldn’t be more excited to have the partnership with the LINK result in a project that brings jobs and activity to NorthStar Park. . . It is especially exciting to have an international, high profile company like Amazon show their belief in the benefits of having a new and substantial presence in Starkville. I have always believed that our partnership with Oktibbeha County and OCEDA would yield long-term economic development to our community and the region. When we partner we create the best chances for our mutual success.”

Buildout on the facility is expected to begin within the next few weeks and continue throughout next year.

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Local Youth Putting His Training to Good Use

Michael Ford – courtesy photo (CMSD)

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Columbus Municipal School District

MTC student Michael Ford has been working hard putting his schooling and training to good use at Columbus Nissan, where he works as an Automotive Service Tech in order to get some hands-on training for his future career. Having completed a two-year training program at McKellar Technology Center, he also earned his ASE certification.

Ford is learning more than just how to fix up cars, but also how to deal with customers out there in the real world; both skills that will serve him well for a long time!

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Future of Leigh Mall Looking Bright

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch and Slim Smith

Having been purchased by the Georgia-based Hull Group in 2019, Leigh Mall has been undergoing extensive renovation since that time in order to transform it into a primarily outward-facing shopping center, which has been dubbed “Columbus Place.” They are on pace to complete the external facade renovations before the end of the year, after which, new businesses will be able to begin moving in. They are also just about ready to begin extensive work on redoing the parking lot; work on that may begin as soon as the week after Thanksgiving if all goes well. Hull has accepted some tax incentives from the City as an incentive for their massive investment in the site.

The former Leigh Mall, now Columbus Place at 1404 Old Aberdeen Road – Grant McLaughlin, The Dispatch

Hull Property Group VP of Government Relations John Mulherin says that they “have been approached by several companies, and our leasing team is working feverishly on the new leases.” 13 new outward-facing spaces and some interior ones are being worked on, allowing for a total of 37 spaces for businesses to occupy, both inside and out.

“The Hull Group has been great to work with,” Mayor Keith Gaskin said. “I stay in contact with them about the mall, and we are excited about the changes that are already happening there and look forward to future retail and stores that will be coming our way.”

Please note that the mall is still open for business in the meantime.

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Caledonia Couple Working Hard as New Owners at Fork N Road

CALEDONIA, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch and Slim Smith

Triston and Melanie Gardner, both Caledonia natives, had been working at Fork n Road Deer Processing as seasonal labor for a number of years, learning the craft; as of September 1st, they took over the business from the retiring owners, Jack and Nancy Lamour. Melanie also works full-time as an ultrasound technician.

They credit the Lamours for their endless help and support with teaching them over the years, with the changeover, and with running the business itself: “We definitely couldn’t do this if they weren’t here to show us the ropes,” Triston said. “I worked with Mr. Jack last year on some of the behind-the-scenes things, ordering supplies and what you do to get ready for the next day. Melanie and I both understood a lot about the production side of things since we have both been doing that for years. Jack and Nancy have definitely taken us under their wings.”

“I’d like to find something that can make it a more year-round business, since this is what I want to be my career,” Triston said. “It’s been fun, but it’s been a little intimidating, too,” he went on to say. “But mainly, we’re enjoying it.”

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The Golden Triangle Region – A Great Place to Do Business!

LOWNDES AND NOXUBEE COUNTIES, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch and Grant McLaughlin

Construction continues apace at the 2,100-acre Aluminum Dynamics site on Charleigh D Ford Jr Drive – credit – GTR LINK

Four of the state’s biggest economic development projects from the last several years found that our area was the best place for them to do business: Aluminum Dynamics, Huber Engineered Woods, PACCAR, and Steel Dynamics all have initiated or expanded their business in the region (Huber – Noxubee County; others – Lowndes County). Their faith in the area’s ability to support them with infrastructure and good workers is paying great dividends – for the companies themselves, for the economy, and for local job-seekers. In total, these four companies represent a total investment of over three billion dollars and hundreds of jobs.

The MDA says that there have been 28 announced projects valued at $60 million or greater each since 2018. MDA Executive Director Laura Hipp said that our state is very attractive to industry because “[W]e have one of the lowest costs of doing business in the nation, a quality of life that is truly hard to beat, a diverse mix of industries, a capable workforce and a strategic location that is ideal for companies that prioritize speed to market.”

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Nearly Fifty Million in Federal Funds May Soon Be On the Way to CAFB

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, MS – Courtesy of and Caleb Salers

The U.S. Senate recently passed a Federal appropriations bill that, if confirmed by the House, will grant more than $83 million for military construction projects in Mississippi; about $48.9 million of that will go to the Columbus Air Force Base. Other funds will go to other Mississippi bases and to the Veterans Administration.

“I’ve worked with my colleagues on the committee to support projects to improve the readiness and operational efficiency of active duty and reserve bases in Mississippi,” Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) said. “These Mississippi projects and support for veterans will, I believe, fare well as the Senate and House work toward a single bill that can be signed into law.”

Local funding in the bill:

$30 million to construct a T-7A Based Training System Facility at Columbus Air Force Base.

$9.5 million to construct a T-7A Unit Maintenance Training Facility at Columbus Air Force Base.

$4.6 million to construct a T-7A Egress Shop at Columbus Air Force Base.

$4.85 million to construct a T-7A Hush House Pad at Columbus Air Force Base.

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A Strong Base, a Strong Columbus

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch and Grant Mclaughlin

CAFB is working on a plan to update their flight training squadron by phasing out the 1970s-era T-38C Talon Flight jets and replacing them with a number of the more modern Boeing T-7A Red Hawk jets. If approved, the changeover will begin in 2028 and should be done by the end of 2030. Air Force Project Manager for the T-7A Basing Team, Christopher Garcia said, “One of the biggest issues with our T-38C Fleet is they are just aging out. The maintenance needs are the biggest driving factor in needing the replacement. Also, as technology has increased, we need newer aircraft to fly with the new fourth and fifth-generation fighters. This T-7A should bridge the gap.” The plan also includes some renovations to the base itself, such as new hangar bays and storage.

As the new planes will allow for the use of night-vision equipment while in flight, they plan to use them for night-time training flights in addition to the usual flights they already have. As this may have an impact on the noise level for nearby residents, they are currently soliciting feedback from people who live nearby via public meetings such as the one held just this past week. The public feedback period will run through November 20th; residents can also express their concerns via their website at

T-7A Red Hawk training jets at CAFB – courtesy photo

“Our wing’s mission is to train world-class pilots,” 14th Flying Training Wing Commander Col. Justin Grieve said. “Throughout our base’s history, we have helped shape the future of pilot training. The T-7A program is a key component for continuing excellence in pilot training while preparing our future pilots to fly the growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft. Support from our community has always been amazing and is vital to the success of the pilot training transformation. The T-7A program will enhance the base and community’s role in supporting our national defense.”

One concern that has been relevant to locals has been the possibility of the closure of the base – something that has come up in the past as the military seeks to lower expenses; CAFB has been on the chopping block at least once in the past few decades, but has survived thanks, in part, to an MDA grant in 2012 for base improvements. The fact that the base has been renovating and expanding its operations, rather than the opposite, seems to bode well for its future.

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Some info has also come from a related Dispatch OP-ED piece:

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PACCAR to Expand Operations, Bring New Job Opportunities

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the GTR LINK

International automotive company PACCAR is set to expand its local manufacturing facility by 50 thousand square feet in order to expand their capabilities. They anticipate that this project will allow them to create a hundred more local jobs by 2026. They are investing nearly $210 million into the expansion. Construction on the site is planned to commence this December. The MDA, Lowndes County, TVA, and 4-County Electric are also providing support for this massive project.

“This exciting announcement is the latest reminder of how Mississippi’s efforts to foster economic growth are a vital part of our state’s economic future. In addition to creating so many exciting new opportunities for so many individuals, these 100 new jobs will benefit the Golden Triangle Region by building a stronger tax base and supporting local businesses. MDA exists to help spur economic development in Mississippi’s communities, and we are glad to support PACCAR as the company grows in Columbus.” – MDA Deputy Executive Director Laura Hipp

“From the day PACCAR selected Lowndes County as the site for its engine plant, I have been impressed by the Company. This iconic company has continued to reinvest in not only its facility here but in our community and its people. The Golden Triangle is a vastly better place because of PACCAR, and I would like to think that PACCAR is a better Company because of the Golden Triangle.” – Joe Max Higgins, CEO, Golden Triangle Development LINK

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Huber Breaks Ground on New Lumber Plant

SHUQUALAK, MS – Courtesy of the Commercial Dispatch and Grant McLaughlin

Construction for a new $418 million strand board lumber plant in Noxubee County is slated to begin in early 2024.

The Huber Engineered Woods groundbreaking at 145 Highway 145 S. in Noxubee County – Grant McLaughlin – Commercial Dispatch

Huber Engineered Woods recently broke ground on a new $418 million strand board lumber plant in Noxubee County; if all goes as planned, construction on the facility will begin in early 2024 and be completed by the end of the following year.

“We started looking at this site in 2022,” CEO Brian Carlson said. “We also looked primarily in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas and looked at multiple sites. We ultimately identified Noxubee County as the best in terms of all the criteria we needed, such as road infrastructure, labor force availability and the lumber we needed to supply the plant. So a really good combination of factors led us to Noxubee County.”

“This new business for Noxubee County will bring a benefit for a long time,” Noxubee BOS President Coleman said. “… When the plant opens in 2026, People won’t have to go very far to find a good job.”

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FORGEing Ahead!

GTR REGION, MS – Courtesy of

The FORGE Foundation has announced this year’s FORGE Your Path Career Expo, to take place at EMCC from October 25th from 7:30AM to 3 PM. Eighth graders from 28 regional schools of all sorts will have the opportunity to see and climb into all sorts of construction machinery and the like, as well as get hands-on time with related materials and techniques. There will also be a Business After Hours reception event the night before, on Tuesday, Oct 24th, which is open to all comers.

Katie McCrary, a FORGE founding board member from McCrary-West Construction spoke about the event: “This expo is a great opportunity for students to learn how to link their current educational outlook to a skilled trade. We want students to learn not only how they can enter these fields but thrive and advance as experts and leaders in these industries. We want to showcase our community as pioneers in developing a workforce pipeline beginning in K-12 and continuing through trade school, community college, or 4-year programs.”

Please visit for more information on this special event!

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