Two Steps Forward

You’ve heard the saying, “two steps forward, one step back.” In economic development, this is particularly true.
(Spoiler alert. There will be no rainbows and sunshine today. No Googling necessary.)

We received word Tuesday that a longtime plant in our region is closing. Indefinitely with no current plans for reopening.
This is the first manufacturer in the Golden Triangle that has been taken down, in part, by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a very real possibility that it will not be the last.

Every single employer in the nation is currently faced with challenges no one saw coming.

Hard times call for hard decisions.

The physical, emotional and economic strain that currently faces our world is beyond a magnitude that many of us can imagine.

This week, we continued our work with Golden Triangle cities and counties, attempting to make plans and solve problems surrounding taxes, operations and how to proceed in the near and far future. We’re watching in real-time our government, at local, state and federal levels, confront no-win situations daily and make difficult calls. Furloughs, lay-offs and closures. Permanent or not, each decision has a trickle-down effect that affects a lot more than just the parties directly involved.

Early on in our series for the paper, we talked about how sales taxes are connected to our everyday lives and why shopping locally can buoy necessary services in times like these. The operation of our cities relies heavily on sales taxes, but ad valorem taxes and special use taxes could also be negatively affected by this crisis.

TIF (tax increment financing) bonds that are used to attract developers in the retail and hotel sector are paid through sales tax revenue. Columbus, Starkville and West Point all have TIF bonds for various projects and these cities likely won’t be able to make bond payments. It’s also likely that local banks hold those bonds, and now will need to work with our cities to restructure that debt.

Special use taxes like the 1% Parks and Recreation Tax in Starkville to fund a $20 million park project will be severely decreased, putting a pause on those improvements while the city triages it’s needs.

The Columbus-Lowndes Community Development Tax is a 2 percent on the gross sales of restaurants in the City of Columbus, and it funds economic development, recreation and tourism activities for Lowndes County, the City of Columbus, the CCVB and the Golden Triangle Development LINK. With lower tax projections, this could result in a massive loss of revenue for each of these entities. It will be particularly problematic for the CCVB which relies on this tax as their sole source of funding and the distribution of this tax is prescribed by law.

Businesses, governments and organizations are looking at current and future budgets and making decisions to survive.

Hard times call for hard decisions.

We reiterated last week our intent to be a signal for the Golden Triangle. Consider this a warning shot. Very hard times are coming, and they’ll leave a mark. They will not, however, be forever. The same day we heard about that plant closing, we notified our partners and East Mississippi Community College initiated plans for a rapid response program to train and upskill those employees for better careers. We saw three employers open their plants back up Monday, with plans to bring their entire workforce back to work safely in the coming months, if business allows.

We received a call from a mother looking to find her son training for a job building helicopters because, "he’s home and he needs to get to work." A local restaurant in Columbus announced a grand re-opening, the third one in the past two years because you just can’t keep great people down. Hard times call for hard decisions. Out of those decisions, our communities can reemerge leaner, focused and ready to move into the future that this pandemic has opened up to us.



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  • The Golden Triangle region has offered us a very energetic workforce with a great work ethic. There has been an abundant supply of laborers and skilled candidates, all willing to learn. Through various resources in the area we have always found what we needed and our employees are dedicated to the success of our plant.

    Ray Hamer

    Human Resources Director, Steel Dynamics, Inc., Columbus Flat Roll Division

  • The workforce in Mississippi is exceptional. I’ve hired many veterans that worked in aviation during their military careers and moved back home to the Golden Triangle area. Airbus was able to use their skill sets and put them to work building multi-million dollar aircraft. The training that EMCC offers was so valuable to us, because they enabled our people to be trained in a variety of disciplines. This allowed for some of our people that had no aviation skills to be trained and hired as apprentices and grew our work force development program. People drive up to 75 miles to work for Airbus, demonstrating the work ethic and commitment of the men and women who live in Mississippi. We are very grateful for the caliber of people we are able to work with.

    Rob Boman

    Head of HR, Environment, Health & Safety

  • They’re [GTR LINK] very responsive to companies and their needs for getting questions answers and providing data and resources.

    Alan Easome

    Senior Director, New Plant Development, Yokohama Corporation of North America

  • The PACCAR Engine Company continues to enjoy great success in hiring, training, and keeping local talent. From Assembly Operators associates, Machining Operators, to Craft Technicians, we have experienced a positive and dedicated workforce willing to learn new skills. Attracting quality new associates has not been an issue with us, but we face the same nation-wide challenges in finding associates with skilled trades. We are pleased for the results we have achieved by locating our facilities here.

    Mike Arzamendi

    Communication & Training Manager

  • This is a very business friendly area and the LINK is an excellent resource staffed with very passionate people that also know their business extremely well and they’re creative. They understand the need for speed and necessity to minimize upfront costs of building or expanding a business. As a result, GTR LINK has been very successful in bringing good manufacturing jobs to the Golden Triangle Region.

    Madhu Ranade

    General Manager and Vice President at Steel Dynamics, Inc., Columbus Flat Roll Division