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Linbrook leaders to seek help in filling new park

Local economic developers will once again make Linbrook BusinessPark their top priority when they travel to Washington, D.C., tomeet Mississippi’s congressional leaders this week, but this timethe tone will be different.

This time, members of the Linbrook Alliance won’t be asking forhelp to build Lincoln County’s newest industrial park. This time,they’ll be asking for help to fill it up.

“Our main focus is to get some help to get industries in thatpark,” said Mike Jinks, president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln CountyRegional Economic Development (Linbrook) Alliance. “We’ve got thepark ready, we’ve put all this money in it, (congressional leaders)have helped us a lot and now we’re asking them to get behind us andhelp put an industry there.”

Alliance members have made the trip to the nation’s capital todiscuss Linbrook plenty of times before, keeping the 400-acre siteat the west end of Brookway Boulevard fresh on the minds of thearea’s federal representatives – Rep. Gregg Harper and Sens. ThadCochran and Roger Wicker. The trips have paid off in the past, with$1.1 million of the park’s $10 million price tag covered by federalgrants when construction began in 2005.

Now, the park is truly “shovel ready.” The site’s water well and1 million-gallon tank are operating, infrastructure and roads havebeen laid down, a boulevard-style entrance to Saint’s Trail isalmost complete and proper signage is on the way. All that remainsfor the park to be successful is a proper industry and the new jobsit will provide.

“I’ve gone to Washington twice concerning Linbrook, but this isthe first time we’re going to say we’re ready to have an industry,”Jinks said.

And what a time it is.

Businesses have shuttered and jobs have left SouthwestMississippi amidst the economic recession for two years, but sinceJanuary, local leaders have heard seemingly only good news. GreatSouthern Wood Preserving opened shop in February, Rex Lumber ofBrookhaven is coming in early 2011, milling giant M and M Millingis moving into the Lincoln County Industrial Park in about sixmonths and several smaller businesses have either expanded oropened.

After two years sitting on the bench, now is the time forLincoln County to get back in the game, said Linbrook Alliance ViceChairman Tillmon Bishop.

“Any time you can go from not in the game to actually being ableto participate, that is a good time to bring (an industrial park)on line,” he said. “In light of our recent successes and those whoare looking at us now, it’s an excellent time. Congressionalleaders have been waiting on us; now, we’re going to be waiting onthem.”

Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield said the Alliance is marking thedifferent sections within Linbrook now, and a new round of soiltests will soon be recorded so that data will be on-hand forprospective industries to study.

Even before its completion, Linbrook Business Park has beenlooked at by a handful of prospective industries that didn’t panout, Brumfield said. But those plans failed not because the parkwas unsatisfactory, but because those industries shelved theirentire projects due to the recession. They may be back for anotherlook soon.

“We’re seeing a definite uptick in activity as the economycontinues to improve,” Brumfield said.

The park will be the main talking point for the Alliance, butnot the only one. Officials will also seek help from congressionalleaders on funding for two smaller projects, including therebuilding of Industrial Park Road and the installation of a newcity water well.

Industrial Park Road is the lifeline for the Lincoln CountyIndustrial Park, where the city’s biggest manufacturers – Wal-MartDistribution Center, McLane Southern and others – are located.

Immense truck traffic has worn the road considerably, andrepaving it in its entirety will be an expensive undertaking.Lincoln County supervisors have already patched the road, but theirstate road and bridge allowance has suffered along with staterevenues.

The installation of a new city water well off Highway 84 nearEasthaven Baptist Church would benefit the city system and feedmore water power into Linbrook. The project has been attemptedbefore, and is last in line in terms of importance for this week’strip, Jinks said.

Alliance members leave for Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and willreturn Friday.