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Chamber event helps promote area successes

Community leaders and banquet guests celebrated another year ofaccomplishments Thursday evening at the 68th Annual Meeting of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, the featured speaker, said Brookhaven’ssuccess has following that of the state.

“What you are, simply, is a microcosm of the state,” Musgrovetold the audience of approximately 300 at the Multi-UseFacility.

Mayor Bill Godbold put some numbers on the city’s businessactivity over the last four years. The value of projects for whichbuilding permits were issued in 1997 was $5.7 million; in 1998, $9million; in 1999, $10 million and so far in 2000, the total is$20.7 million.

“I think that’s a pretty good accomplishment for a little townthis size …,” the mayor said. “And it’s not over yet.”

Projects completed, in progress or in the planning stagesinclude the Brookhaven High School renovation, a new National Guardarmory and highway patrol substation, Specialty Minerals Inc., anew crisis center, the Multi-Use Facility, two sports complexes, anintermodal transportation center and most importantly, the artsschool on the Whitworth campus, the mayor said.

The county has not been without its own projects, said W.D.”Doug” Moak, president of the board of supervisors.

Moak mentioned a library expansion project, completion of thenew jail facility and efforts to reduce litter on county roads.Also, the county is in the process of returning to the beat systemof government.

“We’ve been pretty busy,” Moak said.

During his comments, Musgrove touted the impact of the newNissan plant in Canton, and the potential for other areas of thestate to benefit from it. He said the project is in the top 1percent of economic development projects in the country this year,and Nissan’s decision to locate here shows Mississippi can competewith anyone.

“I believe this will change and has changed the landscape of ourstate forever,” Musgrove said.

Musgrove commended the legislature for approving his AdvantageMississippi Initiative earlier this year. He said the fact-based,comprehensive plan replaced a patchwork, stale incentive plan andwill open the borders to the state to other companies andindustries.

A component of the economic plan is that all counties can takeadvantage of incentives in trying to lure companies to their areas.Citing statistics, Musgrove indicated there will be plenty ofopportunities with the Nissan plant, which has the potential toemploy 8,000 people in a two-phase project.

Musgrove said, on average, there are about 44 additionalautomotive and parts suppliers that locate near a new automotiveplant. Also, according to a University of Michigan study, there are6.6 additional new jobs for every one created by an automotiveplant.

“We’re not talking big, we’re talking huge,” Musgrove said.

Musgrove also touted the importance of cooperation and educationin furthering the state economically. He said the state does nothave enough time, energy or resources to waste on politicaldifferences.

“It takes all of us working together,” Musgrove said.

He also pointed out that, during awards presentations, theevening’s only two standing ovations went to educators. DotMcClendon, of West Lincoln, was recognized as the Educator of theYear, and Rita Rich, principal at Lipsey Middle School, receivedthe Soap Box Award for her many outstanding efforts to promoteBrookhaven and Lincoln County.

The governor said the state must be committed to education.

“If we are to make a difference in the state, we have to haveoutstanding, quality teachers making a difference in theclassroom,” Musgrove said.

In other awards during the evening, United Way President DanitaHobbs announced this year’s fund-raising drive had once againsurpassed its goal. With a 2000 goal of $183,000, contributions andpledges through Thursday had raised right at $200,000, Hobbssaid.

“We’re excited about that …,” Hobbs said. “Once again, youhave opened your hearts and finances to help others.”

In agriculture awards, Robert Earl and Dennis McGehee of D&RDairy were presented with the Farm Family of the Year award. JoshArd, a senior at Brookhaven Academy, received the 4-HScholarship.

In chamber-related honors, Sharon Leggett received theAmbassador of the Year award. Also, Tom Monroe, 2001 chamberpresident, David Holland and Rich were honored for theiroutstanding membership drive efforts.