Pickering aide hears park needs

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A new counsel for Third District U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering metwith members of the LinBrook Alliance Monday for a briefing onattempts to provide additional infrastructure to the businesspark.

Hugh Carroll and Mary Martha Henson, a special assistant to thecongressman, listened as Alliance members outlined the history ofthe park and their plans to install cluster lighting at theInterstate 55 and Brookway Boulevard interchange and to improveSaints Trail Road as the “commercial and industrial corridor.”

“This is my first trek through the district so I’m just tryingto get a feel for what’s important to the people of the district,”Carroll said. “This has been very helpful and very beneficial.”

The Alliance, which is composed of members from the county, cityand Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, has alreadyinvested nearly $10 million into the county’s third businesspark.

An initial investment of nearly $1.6 million each from the cityand county, coupled with $500,000 from the chamber, was used topurchase the 410-acre site near Interstate 55 on BrookwayBoulevard. An additional $2.2 million each from the city and countyand a $1.1 million grant have been set aside to build the park’sinfrastructure, such as water and sewer lines and roads.

However, an earmark of $350,000 in a federal appropriations billfor the cluster lighting was lost when Democrats took control ofCongress, said Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop.

“We’re the largest town in the state without cluster lighting on(interstates) 55 or 20,” said Mayor Bob Massengill. “Even somesmaller towns have it.”

The I-55 and Brookway Boulevard interchange is already thebusiest interchange in Brookhaven and the amount of traffic therewill only increase when the business park opens, he said.

“There’s probably not an exit from Jackson to New Orleans thatis used more,” Massengill said.

Bill Sones, chairman of the chamber’s Industrial DevelopmentFoundation, said the interchange traffic remains steady becauseBrookhaven’s commercial businesses draw from such a large area.

The city’s tax base is far larger than its population wouldindicate and its sales are double that of some cities twice itssize, he said.

That draw and the city’s location on I-55 and Highway 84, aswell as its central location between the east-west corridors ofInterstates 10 and 20, are partly why the park is so necessary,Sones said. The city’s two established industrial parks have beenfilled for quite some time and it cannot grow without providingmore opportunities to potential industrial prospects.

“We’ve been very successful with our recruiting, but we’re fullup,” he said.

Cliff Brumfield, executive director of the chamber, said severalprospects in recent weeks have said they would have located in thepark had its progress been further along. Unfortunately, he said,they indicated the park would not be ready by the time they neededto open their new facilities.