By STEVEN NALLEY
Leaders from all corners of the Golden Triangle will meet at the James M. Trotter Convention Center in Columbus at 6 p.m. to discuss regional governance opportunities which could help area cities and counties gain more benefits together than they could alone.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said he and the mayors and city boards of Starkville, Columbus and West Point all plan to attend the meeting, along with the county boards of supervisors for Clay County, Oktibbeha County and Lowndes County.
Wiseman said others who have been invited but have not confirmed their attendance include Golden Triangle Regional Airport director Mike Hainsey, Columbus Air Force Base Commander Barre Seguin, Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Director Rudy Johnson, representatives of multiple regional economic development offices and the presidents of Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women and East Mississippi Community College.
Wiseman said the term “regional governance” refers to the efforts cities and counties in close proximity make to form more cohesive regional identities. For instance, he said, Starkville’s strategic plan proposes establishing a metropolitan planning organization in the Golden Triangle. An MPO, he said, is a federal transportation designation typically applied to larger urban areas which cross the jurisdictional lines of multiple county or municipal governments.
“It’s defined loosely as a dense population area of more than 50,000 people,” Wiseman said. “The cities of the Golden Triangle don’t fit neatly into the MPO distinction, but it’s worthwhile to see if there’s any way that criteria for an MPO could be met within the Golden Triangle because it opens many avenues for federal transportation funding that do not exist for cities that are not part of an MPO.
“It may not in fact be possible,” Wiseman added. “The biggest hurdle we would have to face is population density. There’s well over 50,000 people in the Golden Triangle area, but that population is not densely packed as you would see in an MPO.”
Wiseman said one of the meeting’s guest speakers is Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, director of MSU’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, or nSPARC.
“He’s been given the task of determining whether there is (potential for an MPO) in the Golden Triangle and also exploring other opportunities in regional governance,” Wiseman said. “His staff has worked quite a bit with census population figures, which puts them in a good position to evaluate not only the MPO but also other opportunities for regional collaboration and government.”
Taylor Adams, purchasing manager at MSU’s office of procurement and contracts, will also give a presentation at the meeting, Wiseman said. Adams has approached Golden Triangle leaders with an opportunity for cities and counties to form a regional purchasing and procurement co-op, he said.
“The idea, simplifying it, behind a regional co-op is by doing more volume in your bidding process, then you stand to lower costs,” Wiseman said. “By working together to make purchases and share procurement practices, he thinks there is an opportunity for savings (in purchasing goods and services) for each of the government entities. Taylor is very knowledgeable about cutting edge practices and procurement services.”
Wiseman said the meeting has been in the works since November, when he, West Point Mayor Scott Ross and Columbus Mayor Robert Smith held a routine meeting. He said he hopes the Trotter Center meeting is the first of many to come.