Tri-counties launch economic development union

From Staff, Press Reports

After months of planning, officials from Webster, Choctaw and Montgomery counties have officially taken action to form a regional economic development organization.

Stone-Adams Financial Partners, a business development and consulting firm in Jackson, announced Monday that efforts to coordinate such a partnership for the three counties are under way.

At the most recent meetings of their respective boards of supervisors, Webster, Montgomery and Choctaw counties all voted to join as the “Regional Economic Partnership of Mississippi” to consolidate economic development activities and resources in that part of the state. Among the counties, the partnership is being referred to as “REPMS.”

“The reality is that we need jobs, and this is an effort to develop prospects for our workforce,” said Pat Cummings, president, Webster County Board of Supervisors. “People in Webster County drive to work in Montgomery County; people in Montgomery County drive to the mines in Choctaw County; this kind of a partnership is just a natural fit for us as we continue to bring industry and development to this region of Mississippi.”

Supervisor Ron Wood of Montgomery County said, “This is about creating jobs that are accessible to the available workforces in our counties,” said . “When so many people commute across county and development district lines, it only makes sense to bring those counties and districts together to create opportunities that benefit the greatest number of people.”

Scope of Work The current scope of work through a professional services agreement puts Stone-Adams in the lead for economic development in all three counties through Dec. 31 as REPMS finalizes administrative and corporate responsibilities, and as the participating counties appoint REPMS board members.

REPMS will take existing development plans and projects, and combine resources and efforts to bring them online, as well as to structure more robust and long-term, sustainable economic development plans for the region.

Each county will pay SAFP a fee of $3,300 a month in October, November and December, according to a copy of Webster County’s agreement included with the minutes of Friday’s board meeting in Walthall.

Webster and Montgomery counties approved their respective agreements on Friday. Webster County’s board voted to enter into the agreement upon a motion by Paul Crowley (District 4), which was seconded by Randy Rico (District 3).

The Choctaw County Board of Supervisors also discussed the agreement Friday but tabled it until Monday. In that meeting, the board approved the agreement in a 4-1 vote with District 5 Supervisor Eric Chambers voting nay.

“As we continue to work with local governments and businesses to find creative ways to bring industry to Mississippi, and to find beneficial ways to finance those projects, the creation of this partnership equips these Mississippi counties with an additional measure of ability to effectively multitask at all levels of economic development,” said Nick Walters, Stone-Adams’ founder and president.

“While the regional partnership comes fully online, Stone-Adams will assist the partnership by handling the day-to-day economic development activities for all three counties. Regional efforts are a priority among many locales, and have been mentioned in several recent publications — they are truly paving the way for effective and streamlined development activities in our state.”

Ron Bennett, president, Choctaw County Economic Development District, said, “We know, as the group focused on economic development for Choctaw County, that having our supervisors and other county leaders involved with us is critical for success. We appreciate them taking this leadership role seriously and for having the vision going forward to pull this together for everyone’s benefit.”

MSU Partnership In addition to the joint efforts of the counties, REPMS will also be partnering with the Mississippi State University College of Business, to leverage existing programs and resources.

“Mississippi State University is pleased to partner with Stone-Adams and to do anything we can to assist in the economic development of these counties,” says Jeffrey Rupp, outreach director for the College of Business. “Rural counties often times have trouble competing for economic development projects, yet have unique things to offer in terms of quality of life and a solid work ethic. Helping these counties and communities succeed is in keeping with President (Mark) Keenum’s commitment to the service mission of Mississippi State University.”

Walters said the idea arose about six months ago among supervisors from Choctaw and Webster counties as his firm’s professional services contract to handle economic development for Choctaw County was getting close to expiration. Montgomery County entered the discussion shortly thereafter.

“We are pleased that all three counties, along with the MSU College of Business, have confidence in our firm to bring all these plans and long-term projects together,” said Walters. This is a very good opportunity for Mississippi to show how collaboration and cooperation can provide a model for sustainable economic development.”

SAFP (www.stoneadams.us) stated in its release that, “Stone-Adams Financial Partners is dedicated to aiding ambitious enterprises with knowledge and expertise required for success. Through its affiliate companies, Stone-Adams aids in accelerated growth of ideas and motivation. Through its network of financial resources, government contacts and enterprise consulting, Stone-Adams possesses networking ability to help any company reach the next level in growth and profitability.”

This article includes reporting by The Choctaw Plaindealer and the Mississippi Business Journal.