Groundbreaking Ceremony for The Concourse
By Jeremy Weldon
The long-awaiting groundbreaking ceremony for The Concourse is one week away, and officials from the city and county are making final plans for the event. Gov. Phil Bryant and Sec. of State Delbert Hosemann will attend, along with dozens of Mississippi legislators connected to the project.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, in the homestretch of this fall’s gubernatorial race, has not confirmed that he will be able to attend. The Governor, along with Reeves and Hosemann, worked with the Panola County Board of Supervisors, Panola Partnership, and the City of Batesville to help secure the support of the state for the completion of the proposed satellite campus of Northwest Mississippi Community College.
The Factory Stores of Batesville on Lakewood Drive was a successful Outlet Mall for several years, but has been in decline with a drop in occupancy of store sites since 2008. Local leaders have proposed several different uses for the Interstate frontage property in recent years, but it was the idea to partner with Northwest College to create a regional workforce development opportunity for the space that attracted the most attention.
Dr. Michael Heindl, president of the college, has said that his first day as president was the first day Board of Supervisors president Cole Flint contacted him about a meeting with the idea to form a partnership that would result in a workforce training facility not currently available in North Mississippi.
Regional industry hopes that collaboration with the college will result in a better prepared workforce, including graduates who have already learned specialized skills using the same machines and technology that makes up the manufacturing infrastructure in Panola, Lafayette, Tate, DeSoto, Grenada, and other parts of the region.
Partnership CEO Joe Azar said this week the months of travel and promotion of the project in both Jackson and Washington, D.C., will begin to pay off with the 10 a.m. groundbreaking. “The Concourse is becoming a reality because of a regional need,” Azar said.
“The hard work and dedication to this project came from the many sectors of our workforce collaborative, plus state and federal government officials,” he said. “I applaud our industry, educators, and local elected leadership, both city and county, for their urgency to this project that will reshape our area’s future for generations to come.”
Mayor Jerry Autrey, a point man for The Concourse project from the beginning, said the complete support of the aldermen and other city officials and private citizens, proves that city and county government, along with school boards, can make great strides for a community when all are working together.
“I keep saying this is a game changer for Batesville because that’s what it is,” Autrey said. “We will all look back on this project some day and realize that it was something that really made this city, and all of Panola County, take off. It separates us from the average city in Mississippi or anywhere in our region.”