By Daniel Brunty
The Webster Progress-Times
The city of Eupora and The Enterprise of Mississippi made steps in attracting industry to the area with an exciting major business growth announcement last week.
As part of AT&T’s continuing efforts to drive economic development and investment in Mississippi, AT&T, The Enterprise of Mississippi and the city have teamed up to have the Eupora Industrial Park certified as AT&T Fiber Ready. This technological infrastructure will assist with attracting industry to promote business and job growth for the entire community.
“We are excited to partner with AT&T in designating the Eupora Industrial Park as AT&T Fiber Ready,” Enterprise Executive Director Lara Bowman stated in an earlier news release. “The availability of fiber-optic facilities with high-speed communications capabilities is one of the checkpoints when a business is considering a site for ensure our continued success in bringing more jobs to Mississippi.”
A press conference announcing the partnership was held Aug. 16 at the vacant Alloyd building in the Industrial Park.
Officials attending included Bill Canty, field representative for Senator Thad Cochran’s office; Webster County Chancery Clerk Russ Turner; Eupora Alderman Jerry Gary; Webster County Supervisors Pat Cummings, Paul Crowley, Doug Burgess and Randy Rico; Earl Johnson of CB&S Bank; state Rep. Joey Hood (District 35); Stan Blaylock and Lisa Fulgham of the Bank of Kilmichael; and special guests Mayor Dan Burchfield and former Mayor C.P “Pete” Fortner.
Opening the event was AT&T Regional Director C.D. Smith, who welcomed all those in attendance and thanked Bowman for her hard work in making this a reality.
Bowman began by thanking AT&T for recognizing that even rural areas can be competitive in economic development and industrial recruitment with the correct infrastructure being in place.
“Any piece of equipment or machine in this day and age now functions through a computer,” Bowman said. “That computer functions from an internet with mostly a fiber connection.”
She also mentioned that with a fiber connection infrastructure in the Industrial Park, space for potential industry is ready and available at the present time.
“This new infrastructure is a great tool for us to use to help find a tenant for the Alloyd Building,” she stated.
Bowman then introduced AT&T Mississippi President Mayo Flynt to speak a few words about the day’s huge announcement.
Flynt began by giving the reasons that AT&T was able to install its technology in the park.
“One of the reasons is our working relationship and partnership we have with The Enterprise and Lara Bowman in this area,” he stated. “Second, it is important for us to have good working relationships and policies from elected officials on the local level.”
Flynt talked about the financial support that AT&T has provided in technology for the state, as well as the incorporation of its latest technology to make the connections that will bring change.
“We believe this technology will be an important tool for Lara and her team to be able to market the Eupora Industrial Park to customers, not only across the country but particularly across the world,” he said. “This will make this industrial park like any industrial park in America. That is a key factor for a lot of these companies when they are trying to decide where to locate a business.”
Following Flynt was Burchfield, who spoke about his excitement for not only the city of Eupora but for the entire county.
Burchfield began by thanking Bowman for her hard work in making this announcement happen as well as the everyday work she does at The Enterprise.
After thanking all the AT&T officials on hand, Burchfield gave thanks to Fortner. As an industrial developer, Fortner was instrumental in recruiting various industries to the city.
“We thank him for his vision and understanding for preparedness for the future,” Burchfield said.
The mayor also related how the city has still been trying to recover from a loss of most of its industries in an 18-month span between 1999 and 2000, as well as economic progress being made.
Burchfield mentioned that the city has a $3.1 million water system infrastructure project upcoming, and has applied for grants for two new broadband internet projects partnering with The Enterprise and the Mississippi Appalachian Regional Commission.
Burchfield discussed improvements to the city airport and what it will mean to economic development in the city as well.
“We have one of the best small municipal airports in the state of Mississippi,” he said.
Burchfield cited other economic benefits the city has to offer, including having a solid healthcare system and providing a school district that has some of the top schools in Mississippi.
“I truly believe Eupora is seeing the beginning of a new renaissance, to recapture our past when we were counted as one of the richest small cities in Mississippi,” he said.
Burchfield and Mayo then participating in the ceremonial signing of the agreement between the city and AT&T.
Following the signing, Mayo presented Burchfield and The Enterprise with a plaque for the designation of the Eupora Industrial Park as AT&T Fiber Ready. Burchfield then presented Bowman the plaque to place in The Enterprise office in the Eupora Depot.
The AT&T Fiber Ready designation helps economic development leaders more effectively position their communities for site selection by emphasizing the availability of high-speed, fiber-based services.
The Fiber Ready designation has been created as part of AT&T’s continued efforts to be a driving influence in economic development across the state. The fiber network provides the bandwidth needed to support data-intensive services such as video collaboration, cloud services and more through products such as Ethernet, virtual private networking, managed internet service and AT&T Business Fiber.
“Through this new designation, we are able to specify properties such as the Eupora Industrial Park as AT&T Fiber Ready, noting AT&T has fiber facilities in place and stands ready to deliver advanced services to potential tenants who order them,” Bowman stated.
The goal for this designation is simply to support the work of community and economic development leaders by providing an easy way to communicate that infrastructure is in place — with no obligation to market AT&T services and no limits on the ability to highlight other providers, she added.
“AT&T believes this designation provides local officials and community leaders an additional tool to use in attracting potential employers and investors,” Bowman said. “The ‘AT&T Fiber Ready’ designation makes it clear there is high-speed connectivity and AT&T stands ready to work with new tenants to meet their communications needs. It also offers a sign that clearly communicates the local community is connected and ready for business.”
AT&T has invested more than $875 million in its Mississippi wireless and wired networks from 2013-15. In January, AT&T announced that it had added 1 million additional business customer locations — including more than 10,500 in the state of Mississippi — to its fiber network since 2012, when the company began an aggressive fiber expansion program. The expansion helped extend the U.S. fiber network another 76,000 route miles, bringing the total to nearly 500,000.
This article contains excerpts from an AT&T news release and a pre-release announcement from The Enterprise.