County leaders seek to establish economic development nonprofit
Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2016
Community leaders are still working to establish a Pearl River County Economic Development organization to bring more industries and jobs to the county.
Pearl River County was one of a few Mississippi counties chosen for the Mississippi Development Authorities’ Ambassador Program last year, Pearl River County District II Supervisor Malcolm Perry said.
Perry said he, along with leaders from the Poplarville and Picayune chambers of commerce, mayors from Picayune and Poplarville, Board President Sandy Kane Smith, Vice President Hudson Holliday and other community leaders were chosen to represent the county during the economic development program.
Each county chose a project they wanted to pursue, while visiting other counties to see what measures have been taken for economic development around the state, Perry said.
After visiting other areas, the group decided to establish a nonprofit organization, which will be partially funded by the county, its two municipalities, and other public and private organizations, Perry said.
“It just energized us, we knew we had to do something different,” Smith said.
“Most every county has some type of economic development organization,” Perry said. “I think that’s how we get left out a lot.”
The group presented their proposal to the MDA, receiving a $5,000 grant to move forward with the project, Perry said.
“We’re just lucky to be selected for the program,” he said.
Establishment of the organization is in the beginning stages, still working through bylaws with the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District and deciding how the Board of Trustees will be selected, Smith said.
However, their main goal is to become competitive in the Gulf Coast region and the rest of Mississippi in the area of industry development, Smith and Perry said.
One hundred and fifty thousand dollars have been set aside for economic development in the county’s general fund for at least the past two years.
Smith said the bylaws established would ensure protection of taxpayer’s money.
“We want [the] people involved to take politics out of it and do something good for everybody,” Smith said. “We want to bring back the basics, someone working directly for the county…someone day-to-day, that lives here,” Smith said.
Though MDA provided some funds and guidance to establish the organization, Smith said, “we’re forming this ourselves as the county,” and will therefore be run under its leadership.
Smith also said the county has missed out on some industries coming to the area because of Mississippi’s inventory taxes.
If the state legislature votes to reduce that tax, Smith said he believes more businesses will be interested establishing operations in Pearl River County.
“No one can do it better than us,” he said.
In January, the Board cancelled a contract with VisionFirst Advisors, an economic development firm of Jackson based law firm Butler Snow, previous coverage states.
Since 2012, the firm was responsible for managing the county’s economic development efforts at a cost of $450,000 every three years, according to previous coverage.
The contract was cancelled after citizens came to the Board with concerns about the company’s failure to bring new business to the county, previous coverage states.
At the time, Board members, like Smith, expressed interest in finding another path to promoting economic development.
Smith and Perry said they hope to establish the new organization soon, and start to generate more industry in Pearl River County.