BY JOE B. COATES (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Make no bones about it–the sagging national economy is affecting Copiah County, too.
“It’s been a tough year for economic development,” Copiah County Economic Development District executive director Neil Honan stated at last Wednesday’s quarterly meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees. The meeting was held at the Thames Center at Co-Lin, and a delicious meal prepared by the culinary staff was enjoyed.
“While the clouds of a bad national economy are hanging above us, we need to continue taking good care of our existing industry. After all, 85% of new jobs are created from our existing industries,” Honan explained.
Honan said that he and district and the Board of Supervisors are committed to assisting existing industries as much as possible, and heaped high praise on these businesses in our area. “They are helping drive our economy, just like always,” Honan said.
He named several successes the area has enjoyed in 2008. Just this year, Honan noted, the county has benefited from over $1 million in grants earmarked for economic development projects in the county. The construction of a new gas pipeline through the county brought lots of new jobs and helped sustain the local economy. Moreover, Southeast Supply Header, who built the new pipeline, has leased the county-owned Universl building in the industrial park at Gallman for 14 additional months.
“That tells me that the possibility of completing the salt dome project in western Copiah County sooner is good, which is another tax revenue and job creation possibility for the county,” Honan explained.
Several other projects are drawing attention to our area, including the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility which could be built in Flora. Even if the lab is built elsewhere, Honan noted the tremendous collateral effect the attention is bringing to the Jackson Metro area, including Copiah County. “We will continue to be on the radar of many decision makers,” Honan said, and perhaps even moving up on some lists.
The meeting was the first of fiscal year 2009, and the first for new executive board president Richard Stockett of Crystal Springs. Stockett, who took the gavel from 2008 president James Mitchell of Hazlehurst, thanked the Board of Supervisors and all of the partners for their financial support and guidance. He stressed attendance at quarterly meetings by the trustees and urged the exchanging of ideas and information.
“Industrial development is a highly competitive business. Every county in the nation has a place for industries to relocate that is better than everyone else’s. We’ve always done a good job of marketing Copiah County to the world, and Neil Honan has helped keep us at the forefront of site-selection,” Stockett said of the executive director. He stated that Copiah County got a great bargain when Honan was hired several years ago, especially with his connections in Mississippi Development Authority and Central Mississippi Planning and Development District.
In housekeeping matters, the new board voted to accept minutes from July 16 and financials from July, August and September. The District is in sound financial condition, according to Mitchell.
Members of the trustees whose terms have expired were thanked for their service. They are Joe Madden, Dale Heard, Shannon Adams and James Smith.
The nominating committee, chaired by Jimmy Buchanan, presented their nominee for treasurer. Dan Rogers of Crystal Springs, the lone nominee, was accepted into the executive committee at that position.
The executive committee members are: Richard Stockett, president; Scotty King, vice-president; Jeff Varas, secretary; Dan Rogers, treasurer; and, James Mitchell, past president. Buchanan rolled off the executive committee on September 30.
New members of the trustees are: Yolanda Brown, George Marx, Ron Evans and Joe Buck Coates.
Outgoing president Mitchell was presented with a plaque noting the district’s gratitude for his service.
The district’s next meeting will be held in January.