• 55°

Concourse project draws state, federal officials

By Jeremy Weldon

More than 200 people gathered for the official groundbreaking ceremony of The Concourse in Batesville at the former outlet mall property located at Hwy. 6 and I-55 last week.

The final paperwork transferring ownership of the property with a $2.6 million price tag to Panola County was signed by board president Cole Flint late Thursday afternoon ahead of the Friday morning event.

Rehabilitation of the facility is expected to cost about $14.5 million and specialized training equipment for the workforce development center will be about $7.5 million. Some $11.5 million has already been secured for the project from state and federal sources with more awards to come as the project moves forward.

The word Concourse was chosen for the satellite campus because it symbolizes a hallway that takes an individual from their current way of life to a greater, brighter, more prosperous quality of life, according to Joe Azar, executive director of the Panola Partnership, which spearheaded the effort.

Dr. Michael Heindle, president of Northwest Mississippi Community College spoke as did Sec. of State Delbert Hosemann. GE Aviation plant manager Michael Robinson spoke on behalf of industrial concerns in the region.

Local officials on the dais included Azar, Flint, and Mayor Jerry Autrey. Each speaker praised the  community effort to bring the Concourse from an idea to a fundable project that includes factions representing county, city, state, and federal delegations.

In the end, officials are hopeful the customized industry-approved curriculum will produce a better trained workforce with specific skill sets designed to meet local factory demands.  Besides servicing existing industry, the training center is projected to produce enough high skilled workers to attract additional industry in search of regions with an available workforce ready to take on technical jobs.

The 138,000 square foot facility is expected to have 800 participants a year initially, serving students through adult education and career/technical programs.

Cutline:  Participating in the ceremonial groundbreaking Friday were (from left) Rev. Jerry Long, Rep. Trey Lamar , Dr. Michael Heindl, Batesville alderman Teddy Morrow, Rep. Lataisha Jackson, Sen. Gray Tollison, Kay Mettetal, Rep. Nolan Mettetal, supervisor Cole Flint, Sec. of State Delbert Hosemann, Michael Robinson, supervisor John Thomas, Brian Henson, Joe Azar, Mayor Jerry Autrey, Ryan Revere, James Birge, John McKay, and Mike Armour. (Joey Brent)