State Representative Bruce Griffey, representing the 75th District of Tennessee, organized an industrial development trip on Thursday, November 29, along with Benton County Mayor Brett Lashlee and Henry County Mayor Brent Greer. Griffey said he organized the trip and invited each county mayor in his tri-county district to attend. Stewart County Mayor Robin Brandon had planned to go on the trip, but a business prospect visiting Stewart County that day prevented him from attending.
The trio traveled to Columbus, Miss. to meet with industrial developer, Joe Max Higgins, who is the Executive Director of the Golden Triangle Regional Industrial Development Authority.
The “Golden Triangle” references a three-county region in North Mississippi consisting of three principal cities, Columbus, Starkville and West Point. A local West Point newspaper editor came up with the name “Golden Triangle” in an effort to brand a movement of prosperity among all three communities. The residents of this tri-county region hoped their future would be “golden” and it certainly has been under the leadership of Joe Max Higgins.
“Higgins took one of the poorest regions of one of the poorest states and turned it into one of the most prosperous regions in the South, bringing in $5.9 billion investment dollars and 6,000 manufacturing jobs,” said Griffey who arranged the meeting with Higgins. “Higgins is recognized nationally as perhaps the single most successful industrial developer in the United States and I wanted to go straight to the best to learn how we can make the 75th District, our own tri-county region consisting of Benton, Henry and Stewart Counties, just as great and just as economically prosperous as the Golden Triangle,” Griffey explained.
“I wanted to talk Higgins into coming into our region himself and replicating his organization here to bring economic development to us. I have not convinced him to expand his reach to our region yet, but I did get him to share information about what he did to successfully transform the Golden Triangle into a national hotspot for industrial development,” Griffey continued. “Fortunately, Higgins was very gracious with his time and happy to share his experiences and the challenges he overcame that catapulted the Golden Triangle Regional Industrial Development Authority as the premier job developer in the nation.”
“The trip was very productive. First and foremost, Higgins emphasized that it takes a commitment by those who are supposed to bring jobs to the area, and it also takes a commitment by the leaders in the regional community to do what it takes to make the endeavor a success. The Golden Triangle Regional Link, also known as the GTRLink for short, initially formed a three county, private non-profit entity separates from direct government control and governed by established and recognized business leaders from the tri-county community. GTRLink also formed a trust partner funded by local business interests to help with marketing and other costs separate from direct industrial development site costs,” Griffey explained.
“Higgins also underscored the importance of knowing the prospective business recruit and successfully negotiating to make your site and your incentive package more attractive than that of your competition. In short, your package has to reflect and highlight that the prospective business can expect lower costs if they locate to your site compared to the costs they will face if they locate to a competing site,” Griffey expounded.
In finishing, Griffey said, “Another successful product of the meeting was that Higgins conducted a free review and analysis of the tri-county 75th District region, including Benton, Henry and Stewart Counties, and provided the opinion that he sees no reason why our region could not attract a major industrial development with a proper approach and plan and lots of hard work. It sometimes takes a winning attitude and not settling for just good enough.”
Griffey, Greer and Lashlee were all extremely impressed with Higgins and optimistic for future economic/industrial development and job growth for the area, “if,” according to Griffey, “the regional community will pull together and make the necessary commitments for success.”
Lashlee concluded the trip by saying, “Basically the focus is that successful industrial recruitment relies on taking a regional partnership mindset and buying into acceptance of what’s good for your neighbor is also good for you. Benton County can’t industrially develop or recruit cost effectively by going it alone. In combining the resources of our strengths and the strengths of our neighbors, we can land quality industrial and economic investors. Our visit with Golden Triangle Resources LLC was about seeing the concept of regional development and the successes it can lead to.”