The county could be sitting in a good position in the coming months in terms of new jobs that will pay higher than average salaries to their workers.
Neil Honan, executive director of the Copiah County Economic Development District, told the organization’s Board of Trustees that the Spectra salt dome gas storage project in the western part of the county “looks like its finally moving forward” after years of lingering. Honan said that the company indicated recently that they are ready to proceed with the next phase in anticipation of making the project a reality.
“It appears that Spectra is ready to take advantage of the current energy situation in the country and complete its natural gas warehouse,” Honan said.
In a related development, the contractor who builds gas pipelines for Spectra has announced that it intends to continue its occupation of the Universal building in Gallman for up to 24 additional months. The company moved in part of the Copiah County-owned building in the spring when the new natural gas supply pipeline that runs through the county was nearing a construction start date. Combined with Spectra’s announcement, the two related industries will keep existing jobs in the county and bring possibly dozens more new jobs at the peak of the construction process. “This is great news for our county, and great news for the District. It shows that CCEDD, its business and municipal partners and the Board of Supervisors are all working together to keep jobs here, create new ones and keep the related spending in the county,” Honan said.
Honan was accompanied to the meeting by three guests. Sonny Thomas, a representative of Mississippi Development Authority and Copiah County’s principal liaison to that organization, attended the meeting and heard all the good news. Two others are project managers for the Greater Jackson Alliance, of which Copiah County is a member along with eight other central Mississippi counties.
Jennifer Turner and Nicole McNamee explained to the trustees that the area is in consideration for the National Bio and Agro Defense Lab that will be the main research facility for animal and environmental disease threats to humans. The exact location being considered is Flora, MS, but the opportunities that could come to Copiah County in terms of very high paying jobs are excellent, if Flora lands the facility, both Turner and McNamee said.
“Because of your county’s membership in GJA, we are able to market your area to site consultants and developers world wide that will be working directly with suppliers and contractors of the new facility. It is evident that Copiah County has a great industrial park that will be ready to go when needed and a great devotion to economic development in the area,” Turner said.
Earlier in the meeting Honan announced that the Board of Supervisors had essentially been awarded a $700,000 MDA grant to add one more traffic lane to Advance Auto Park Drive, the major artery through the industrial park, after additional paperwork is completed and sent to MDA. Together with the grant money left over from the MMI project and a match from the BOS, the county will have nearly $1 million to put towards the road project.
Also, the board has agreed to complete two pad ready spec-sites that Honan can show to prospective developers and site consultants. “These two improvements to the industrial park will make Copiah County much more likely to be selected as a supplier/contractor site for the new Bio Defense facility, if it is approved for Flora,”Turner said. The total impact of construction of the facility will be nearly $450 million. Once completed, 485 new direct jobs will be created with an annual labor impact of around $28.4 million, Turner explained. Those numbers don’t include the number of secondary or other related bio-tech jobs that will come with it, she stated.
Flora is one of six sites around the nation being considered by the Department of Homeland Security for the NBAF. The others are: Athens, GA; Manhatten, KS; Plum Island, NY; Butner, NC; and, San Antonio, TX. An announcement about the location of the NBAF is expected by the end of the year, Turner said.
McNamee outlined a new workforce project that GJA has undertaken recently. The Alliance is currently compiling a labor study of the region that will include detailed workforce information about each of the eight counties in the organization, plus five others in the surrounding area. The comprehensive study will enumerate the pool of labor resources available in the area and identify long- and short-term needs related to developing the future work force, along with several other tasks, to provide a greater marketing tool for the Alliance and for the individual counties, she explained.
James Mitchell, chairman of the Executive Board, stated that the District is in good financial condition, as the board handled several routine matters before adjournment until October.