Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins talks with a Starkville Rotary Club member Monday at Starkville Country Club. He discussed Starkville's planned industrial park at the club's weekly meeting. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
February 27, 2018 10:31:22 AM
Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said the LINK is "all in" on completing Starkville's and Oktibbeha County's new industrial park during a Monday update for the Starkville Rotary Club.
Perhaps the most notable update on the site's progress came after the Rotary meeting concluded, when Higgins confirmed to The Dispatch that the LINK is courting three companies to an 80-acre parcel on the east side of the industrial park. That parcel, he said, is already zoned C-2 (commercial), which allows for things like distribution centers and makes it marketable while the rest of the nearly 400-acre site awaits a court decision on rezoning.
"We've got two, possibly three projects that we're working that'll fit that M.O.," Higgins said. "See, we can't put somebody out there (in the rest of the site) until this zoning thing is closed because it puts the company and us in potentially having a bad problem. However, these companies could plug and play to go in there right now. A distribution facility could go in there right now."
Higgins didn't identify the companies the LINK is courting, but he said the buildings that could come from successfully attracting one range from 100,000 to 300,000 square feet. He said the projects could create 175 to 300 jobs.
The LINK has already submitted some proposals to fill that spot, he said, and will submit another one next week.
Court challenge to industrial park
The zoning issue Higgins referred to started last year when property owners near the industrial park site, which is located northwest of the Highway 82-389 intersection, challenged the city's decision to rezone the land for the park. Oktibbeha County Circuit Court upheld the city's decision, and the case has since been appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Higgins, speaking to the Rotary Club, noted that every decision point so far, from the Planning and Zoning Commission to aldermen to the circuit court, has gone in favor of the rezoning. With that in mind, he said he's confident the Supreme Court -- which he expects will rule on the matter this summer -- will follow suit.
If the court rules against it, Higgins said "all is not lost" for the park, because there are still several avenues to proceed with a rezoning.
The rezoning, which could come after Starkville finishes its comprehensive plan later this year, would allow such a change to be an acceptable use of the property. He said it could also come if the LINK lands a distribution center or similar business on the 80-acre parcel that's already marketable because that would create a change in the character in the neighborhood -- a prerequisite for rezoning.
He added it's likely some of the preparation work that's already occurred at the site, which the LINK expects to be completed in July 2019, constitutes a change in the character of the neighborhood.
"There's an ass-kicking coming," Higgins said. "You can take it now or take it later, but it's gonna come. There is going to be a park built there. Now what we all need to focus on is getting a park built there, then getting someone to locate in there."
'The world is watching'
Higgins also spoke about a trip he took last week to Boston and the Harvard School of Business, which is using information gathered from a late fall trip to the Golden Triangle to create two case studies for its students.
He said the studies, along with features from national media such as The Atlantic and CBS' "60 Minutes" have raised the Golden Triangle's profile and attracted groups such as Dartmouth last summer and the Harvard faculty in the fall.
"The world is watching what we do," he said.
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