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OCEDA money could support area agency

September 12, 2012

By CARL SMITH
news@starkvilledailynews.com

Oktibbeha County Economic Development Agency President Jack Wallace says his organization could budget $75,000 to help fund a new tri-county regional economic development agency.

Wallace also suggested OCEDA would remain a primary economic development point of contact within the new organization.

During an OCEDA meeting Monday, Wallace began discussions with fellow board members about his organization’s proposed $735,980 budget. Although the budget is not finalized, Wallace said it has a line item to help fund some of Oktibbeha County’s portion of a tri-county development group which will partner the area with Lowndes and Clay counties.

The OCEDA board took the proposed budget under advisement Monday.

Wallace also suggested OCEDA would remain Oktibbeha County’s local economic development representative during the meeting.
“I’ve scheduled in (OCEDA’s budget) $75,000-$100,000 for the first two years (for the proposed development authority). Then it gets into legislations between cities and counties (for further financial support),” Wallace said Monday. “We’d have three counties working together in cooperation in lieu of competition … We’re hoping this entity would be located on a neutral site … (and hoping for) someone who works for Oktibbeha County — and Oktibbeha County alone — someone for Clay (and) someone for Lowndes … (who would be) devoted to those counties. Once someone comes into the county, then there’s OCEDA who deals with them coming in. Initially, we will be asked to support (the organization financially), and we should.”

Wallace, along with Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman and District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard, were appointed to an Oktibbeha County steering committee which met numerous times this summer with committees from Lowndes and Clay counties and discussed the formation of the new economic development agency.

Wiseman and Oktibbeha County Administrator Don Posey said both respective governments’ upcoming fiscal year budgets do not contain specific line-item funding for the new development authority, but discretionary funds remain at the will of each government’s elected board.

Representatives from the tri-county area will unveil plans for the new regional development authority 2 p.m. Friday at East Mississippi Community College’s Lyceum Building in Mayhew.

Last week, area officials would not reveal specifics about the economic development agency before Friday’s meeting but did say the forum will discuss organizing, funding and implementing the consortium. The overall cost of the proposed agency, including individual costs from each of the three counties, is still unknown.

“We’ll have a lot of specifics (Friday). We really want to lay out plans for the vision and intention that the steering committee has for true regional development,” Howard said last week. “There are some time schedules built into (this proposal) and there certain marks we want to hit at specific times (if the project goes forward). Everybody really went into this process with the mindset that this would be something very positive for the region.”

Howard was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but he, Wallace and Wiseman have all said the proposed development authority will provide the Golden Triangle with a substantial leg up in economic development.

“We’re trying to make the … community a better place for everybody.” Wallace said Monday. “We think we’d become the obvious place that someone would want to look at (for economic development) in Mississippi.”

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