Foundation holds 39th annual banquetBy PAT BROWN,
Thursday marked the 39th annual meeting of the Simpson County Development Foundation and also the changing of the guard.
The featured speaker for the meeting was Joe Max Higgins, executive director of the Golden Triangle Development Association.
The Golden Triangle is a partnership between Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties. Each of these counties had a successful but limited economic development effort on their own.
Higgins initially took an economic development position with Lowndes County which blossomed into the three-county consortium. It now represents over 16,000 manufacturing jobs and several billion in investments. This growth, however, did not come without some bumps along the way, according to Higgins.
Actually, he said, he was offered a “fine job” with the Tennessee Development Authority, TVA, and was going to resign from Golden Triangle because the “attitude” of the folks he was working with was not right and in order for their efforts to be a success they were going to have to do things differently. When Higgins submitted his resignation, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors threatened to sue him and TVA for breach of contract.
“While TVA had deep pockets,” Higgins said, “I could not afford the cost of being sued.” So a compromise was reached, and Higgins attended a conference sponsored by TVA which focused on cooperative super sites for economic development.
Before the presentation was complete Higgins realized that he not only could put together one but two potential super sites while all the other developers were coming up with reasons as to why they could not be competitive. He came home to set the deal in place, and before all was said and done he had located a major manufacturer in the steel business, and the rest is history.
Higgins said the most important issue in the development business is attitude.
“When it is correct positive things happen and people look for ways to make things happen rather than complaining about why they can’t or don’t,” he said. The proceeds from the first deal resulted in $1 million dollars annually and the county agreed to reinvest those proceeds into developing infrastructure for the future. Now they proudly boast one of the most successful development programs going.
After the program, the new officers for the upcoming year were introduced. Serving as president for the 2018 term is Mallory Yelverton. Brien Hubbard will move into the president-elect position, and Josh Duckworth will move into the role of secretary/treasurer.
Dale Berry and Todd Booth will serve as vice presidents of Government Relations. Brandon Hubbard will serve as vice president of Economic Development, Stan Bulger will serve as vice president of Community Development, and Shannon Welch will serve as vice president of Stakeholder Development.
New to the board will be Mary Frances Priest, Lacye Evans, Michael Kennedy and Brett Osborn, and Ian Cowart will fill an unexpired vacancy on the board.
Shannon Welch presented the SCDF Ally of the Year recognition to Central Mississippi Planning and Development District. Accepting the award on behalf of the district was Mike Monk, executive director.
Welch acknowledged what a big asset CMPDD had been over the past year. The organization has been able to provide information to the county that has been very useful as well as helping with data development used for prospective businesses.
Pat Brown made the presentation for Business of the Year. This year’s recipient was Trustmark National Bank. Brown noted the support that Trustmark has provided in regard to the various community projects. The award was accepted by Brandon Hubbard on behalf of Trustmark.
In his remarks, Brown recounted the many economic and industrial opportunities dealt with by the Foundation over the course of the year.
The format for the event was changed this year from the typical night meal to a luncheon. Chris Williams of Farm Bureau prepared the food, and Boswell Regional Center was the host for the event that drew one of the largest crowds that has attended in the past several years.
This year the Foundation acknowledged the agriculture community and the role that agriculture plays in the state as well as locally.
Statewide agriculture employs 29 percent of the workforce. Also statewide it represents a $7.6 billion industry. In Simpson County alone there are 109,500 acres in lands set aside for agriculture, which also includes the timber industry.
Brown presented the gavel to incoming president Malory Yelverton, who outlined some of the goals and objectives for the year before adjourning the meeting.