Regionalism is the buzzword in the Golden Triangle today.
At their board meeting today, the Columbus Lowndes Development LINK (LINK) board members took the last vote needed to establish a formal affiliation between their organization and the West Point Clay County Community Growth Alliance (Growth Alliance).
It is a move that has been praised by many.
“TVA applauds the Columbus Lowndes Development LINK and Clay County’s comprehensive regional strategy of working together to promote their communities,” said John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of economic development. “The area’s track record of $4.4 billion invested and 5,600 jobs created over the past five years is very impressive, and cooperative efforts will make the area’s economic development opportunities and benefits even greater.”
"We are very excited to team with the West Point and Clay County community," stated LINK board president Jim McAlexander. "It is a natural fit since our economies are intertwined."
The process began after the Growth Alliance's executive director announced his resignation in late September. The organization's executive board began meeting weekly for research and discussion on what direction to take. They invited representatives of TVA, Mississippi Development Authority, the LINK, North Mississippi Industrial Development Authority and others to meet with them and voice ideas.
"The LINK has had the kind of success that we want our county to experience," said Jackie Edwards, president of the Growth Alliance board. "We decided that with their proven track record and the similarities between our two communities, we should make a proposal to join forces instead of searching for a new executive director."
The LINK has received national attention for bringing in large projects such as the Severstal steel mill, American Eurocopter, KIOR, Stark Aerospace, Aurora Flight Sciences, PACCAR and Calisolar.
"Clay County has some of the best infrastructure in the entire Tennessee Valley," said Joe Max Higgins, executive director of the LINK. "The types of companies that will be interested in Clay County will be energy and capital intensive – offering the kinds of jobs that are highly technical and well-paying."
The agreement will be in effect for a minimum of three years, with West Point and Clay County bringing one-quarter of the new alliance's funding to the table. The Growth Alliance will continue to serve as the Chamber of Commerce for West Point and Clay County.
"We couldn't be more pleased about this announcement," stated West Point mayor Scott Ross. "To use a sports metaphor, with Joe Max Higgins we have the Super Bowl MVP quarterbacking our team now. His leadership, paired with our resources such as ample power, water and wastewater capacity, has us poised for great success."
"I want to personally thank West Point's Board of Selectmen," Ross continued. "Particularly Jasper Pittman and Charles Collins, who served on the Growth Alliance's executive committee. They, along with the entire committee, are to be commended."
Ross' sentiments were echoed by Clay County Board of Supervisors Chairman Luke Lummus, who said, "We're glad to be a part of this new venture. A lot of people have worked hard to make it happen. I feel like, working together, the sky is the limit."
The plan is for the LINK to hire an individual who will be assigned to West Point. This person will be expected to have economic development experience. If he or she is not certified in economic development, that requirement is expected to be met within two years of taking the position.
"Regionalism has been discussed for many years and occurs informally on specific items and endeavors," noted McAlexander. "This first formal step is a new beginning of regionalism that will ensure a smart future for our area. Together we will become stronger as we capitalize on a larger economic base, more diversified assets and the resulting economies of scale we create."