OKOLONA – The theme of the Okolona Area Chamber of Commerce banquet was on business and industry with recognitions going out to existing companies but the largest business recognized was the one that is not there – yet.
Randy Kelley, Executive Director of Three Rivers Planning and Development District, announced the Chickasaw County Rail Site, east of Okolona, as a new megasite ready to draw industry into the area.
The site is located on 959 acres between Okolona and Egypt and is adjacent to the Kansas City Southern Railway, US Hwy. 45 Alternate and is less than 13 miles from the Aberdeen port of the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway. The site is under option for five years, with a five-year renewal option. It already has electricity available due to a substation in the Egypt community that links to Okolona. The Tennessee Valley Authority has already agreed to partner for due diligence to complete preparation of the site.
Kelley said preparing a site is necessary prior to recruiting business and industry.
“Economic development is not rocket science,” Kelley said, adding that the three key ingredients include an adequate labor force, industry support in the community and a site on which to build.
“You’ve got to have a competitive site,” Kelley said. “If you’re going to play ball, you’ve got to have a bat and a ball. You need a site that is marketable.”
Three Rivers worked with the City of Okolona and the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors to develop the site and secure the land options and Kelley believes it will be beneficial to the area.
“This opens doors Chickasaw County hasn’t had before,” Kelley said.
Economic Developer Josh West signed on to work with the county and its municipalities last year and said the Rail Site will be an asset in recruitment of industry and jobs.
“Long gone are the day one could lay out a map and stake a claim and say “Here’s a site,'” West said. “You have to have control of the land.”
West said although the site is not equipped with sewer capacity yet, he doesn’t see that as a problem.
“When Toyota came in (to the Wellsprings Site), they brought in water from Tupelo,” West said. “It’s very well set up and has a natural buffer zone.”
Kelley reminded banquet guests that the Wellsprings project originated by the PUL Alliance of Pontotoc, Lee and Union counties did not bring in an industry overnight, but it did bring one.
“The PUL Alliance had that site for eight long years before Toyota came in,” Kelley said. “A lot of people thought we were crazy.”
But Kelley also reminded guests that cooperation from all entities brought in the Toyota plant which provided industry and employment opportunities for all of North Mississippi.
“It’s a continual effort of partnerships,” Kelley said. “No one can do it by themselves.’