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Officials shop for business park ideas

SOUTHEAST MISSISSIPPI – In developing the community’s newbusiness park, Brookhaven and Lincoln County officials hope toborrow some of the best traits that have made similar endeavorssuccessful in other parts of the state.

“We want to take a couple of days, go out and view some of themost progressive business parks in the state so we can visualizeideas that we want for our park,” said Cliff Brumfield,Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce executive vicepresident.

Members of the Economic Development Alliance made their firsttrip Wednesday to the Hattiesburg-Forrest County Industrial Parkand to the Howard Technology Park in Ellisville. A future trip tobusiness and industrial parks in central Mississippi is beingplanned.

Recurring themes throughout the day were infrastructure andInternet. Economic development officials in the visited communitiesstressed the importance of having a well-prepared presence on theInternet and a developed park site.

“The park without infrastructure, you’re not going to attract athing,” said Angie Dvorak, president of the Area DevelopmentPartnership, which oversees the 1,000-acre Forrest County park andothers.

Dvorak said she knew of instances where industries had been”burned” by promises of infrastructure that did not materialize ontime. She said site selectors are only interested in what isavailable now.

“The infrastructure absolutely has to be there,” Dvoraksaid.

Regarding the Internet, Dvorak said it is used by many siteselection agencies as a primary means of evaluating communities andeliminating ones that do not meet their project’s criteria.

Dvorak also touted the partnership between Hattiesburg andForrest County. She credited Brookhaven and Lincoln County forhaving a similar arrangement.

“You’ve got a tremendous advantage doing that,” she said.

While in Hattiesburg, community officials also visited with Website designer Rick Bice, who helped develop the chamber’s Web sitein 2001 and is working on its new one. He said chamber officialswill need to determine what content the site should include.

“From there, we can figure out a way to make it happen,” Bicesaid.

Brumfield said officials want to emphasize site selection aswell as chamber and community activities. He estimated the Web sitework would cost $9,000 to $11,000.

“That’s going to be minimal compared to what the benefits couldbe,” added Anthony Bell, chairman of the Industrial DevelopmentFoundation.

Officials said the approximately 550-acre Howard Technology Parkin Ellisville may be more in line with what local officials wantfrom their 400-acre park west of Brookhaven.

Mitch Stennett, president of the Economic Development Authorityof Jones County, said officials had been planning the park since1997 and purchased land in 2000. They were then able to securestate funding assistance when Howard agreed to build a new computerplant, which is scheduled to be completed in July 2006.

Also impressive in the Howard park were its aesthetics.Officials especially liked the concept of underground electricaland other utility lines.

Stennett and Sandy Holyfield, economic development director,said the park enacted strong protective covenants for businessesand industries that will locate there. Holyfield said the park hasfive zones, with building requirements becoming less restrictive asthey move away from the park entrance.

Brookhaven and Lincoln County’s business park land was purchasedwith approximately $4 million in city and county bond issues andrevenue from the chamber’s Vision Partnership campaign. Officialsdid not offer an estimate on how much will be needed for parkinfrastructure.

“We’re talking significant dollars to put in streets, lights…,” Brookhaven Mayor Bob Massengill said.

Bell likened development of the business park to putting apuzzle together. With the land purchase, he said the puzzle’sexterior, or frame, had been assembled.

“Now we’ve got to assemble the interior,” Bell said.

Fellow Alliance member and Lincoln County District TwoSupervisor Bobby J. Watts applauded city, county and chamberofficials’ dedicated and unified effort in developing the park. Hesaid it will put the community in a great position for thefuture.

“We want the best for our people,” Watts said.