Grant funds

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 18, 2011

D.C. delegation lands grant funds for industrial park

 By Rupert Howell

A recent trip to Washington by local officials has clinched a $238,000 grant to build construction pads for two 100,000 sq. ft. spec buildings at the new industrial site near Panola County Airport north of Batesville on Highway 35.

Panola Partnership Executive Officer Sonny Simmons was elated over recent results stating, “I don’t think many communities go to Washington in this political climate and come back with a check in the hand,” he said adding, “It was well worth a trip to Washington.”

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Accompanying Simmons to Washington last week were board of supervisors president Gary Thompson, Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey and Alderman Eddie Nabors, Engineer Blake Mendropp and Dennis Dye who is currently serving as president of Panola Partnership.

Simmons credited local representation in Washington including both Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran as well as freshman Congressman Alan Nunnalee for assistance.

He noted that local connections including a chance meeting with his kindergarten classmate also smoothed the process of acquiring funding.

Simmons explained that Panola Partnership has been been working with other agencies such as  Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), since October of 2010 to secure funding.

Those agencies helped compile evaluations and projections and are both currently marketing our area. Those projections estimated 300-400 jobs may be created by the projects.

Since then, Washington has scaled back many projects due to budget and economic constraints, but new information compiled including renderings and investment surveys showed that over 1,000 jobs had recently been created in the county and $200,000,000 in new investment had occurred according to Simmons.

The new surveys, “convinced decision makers, we are going to grow,” he stated.

Simmons also noted, “The Partnership’s commitment of spending almost $1 million in infrastructure,” was a factor in the decision. Panola Partnership receives approximately $30,000 monthly from an agreement with LS Power since its inception and has used a portion of those funds to build above ground infrastructure at the new industrial site.

He also emphasized the Partnership’s ability to use those LS Power payments for such infrastructure, “puts us way ahead of a lot of our competition.”

With the $238,000 grant, he explains, comes the requirement to match with 20 percent toward the project. Panola Partnership will make that commitment without having to look towards local government for funding through higher taxes.

Having building pads already prepared puts the local industrial park months ahead by having a site prepared for custom building construction to begin immediately.

Simmons also mentioned that building a spec building at one of the proposed sites, might not be far off.

Entities, such as MDA and TVA who have current research, estimate occupancy of a building within 12 to 18 months Simmons said. He predicted a mid-May or early-June beginning of the project noting that roads, utilities and lighting will continue to be put into place until then.