The Golden Triangle Development LINK is narrowing the field of potential sites for a new Oktibbeha County industrial park, but CEO Joe Max Higgins says he expects land acquisition costs to drive the cost above the failed Innovation District’s $10 million price tag.
On Tuesday, Higgins told aldermen his organization is determining a finalist site out of about three locations.
Due diligence studies will continue, he said, and the LINK could enter into the necessary purchase options and bring the site forward to city and county representatives as early as October.
“We … took some of the sites we looked at before and didn’t pick and started working on them and other possibilities. We’ve got to talk to the appraisers … and get into options before we unveil where they are so we have control,” Higgins said. “We are here knowing that this time of year cities and counties are starting to plan and budget and figure out what things cost. Our office will commit to … work closely with y’all. We know you have critical deadlines (approaching with fiscal year budgets due in September).”
Both aldermen and county supervisors previously pledged $5 million each toward developing the Innovation District, a 300-plus acres near the Highway 25 and Highway 182 interchange in west Starkville, but the plan fell through after studies indicated an abundance of cultural artifacts in the area — the processes to confirm their presence and clear the land, specifically — could balloon the final cost and delay the project about 18 months.
Starkville was expected institute a 2-mill tax levy to support its share of bond payments.
A similar levy could come this upcoming fiscal year to help fund upfront costs associated with the early phases of development. By paying those costs, Higgins said the city’s portion of debt and interest would be lowered.
“I think we can come up with a budget of anticipated expenses, then give you a credit for that after we figure out who pays for what,” he said. “It’ll cost X to build the park. How the baby gets split up (between the city and the county)? Quite frankly, I don’t know if I care one way or another.”
While officials are still deciding where to locate the park, Higgins said the LINK will not use the Innovation District moniker again for the new development. The new site, he said, could also be smaller than the failed park’s 326 acres.
The Innovation District was the LINK’s first attempt at making Oktibbeha County a viable contender in the world of economic development. The county’s only other formal industrial park, Cornerstone Park, is not seen as an enticing site for large-scale investments since its electrical capacity cannot support heavy manufacturing.
Cornerstone landed its first commitment from an industrial tenant last month when DPM Fragrances announced plans to construct a $5 million expansion project in the park.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch