While it is doubtful George County will ever become a mecca for global business, the county industrial park is beginning to see international interest.
“Seven international firms have visited and have considered locating here over the past three years,” said Larry McDonald, president of the George County Board of Supervisors. “At least three of those firms are still considering George County as they work through the site selection process.”
The most recent is a European metals firm that could potentially employ more than 100 people that County officials have dubbed Project Decade.
The County Director of Community Development Ken Flanagan said representatives from the company recently toured the area and the industrial park and two days later informed the County that it was still in the running as it advanced to its next round of site selection.
Other firms include three from Asia, one from Canada, one from Africa and another from Europe.
There are several reasons for the sudden interest in George County, according to Flanagan. The decision by Enviva to locate a wood pellet plant here and the infrastructure improvements necessary to support that plant have played a huge role. Working with the Mississippi Development Authority and the South Mississippi Planning and Development District to obtain a series of grants has enabled the County to add land to the Industrial Park and make major improvements to highways, water supplies, waste water treatment, electrical service and natural gas supplies.
A major factor has been railroading service. Mississippi Export Railroad has a short line road running from the Industrial Park to the Port of Pascagoula. The railroad also provides to major transcontinental roads such as Canadian National. At least five of the seven international firms were attracted to the industrial park because of this rail transportation to the Port of Pascagoula.
Of course, the economic situation and the current business climate both nationally and within the state are important considerations, Flanagan said.
Just because an international firm looks at George County does not mean it will decide to move here. With Enviva, for example, there were other sites in other counties in the running and trying hard to entice the company to build in their community. The site selection process can take years to unfold, involving a myriad of interactions and details. The Project Decade site selection process will take at least two years, Flanagan explained.
A firm’s initial interest in this area does not mean County officials are ready to throw open the doors and welcome it. While the prospective new firm is evaluating George County, the County is evaluating the impact that firm will have on the area and whether or not it is a good fit for this community.
Supervisor Kelly Wright assisted with the Project Decade tour and has met with several of the international visitors. He says each meeting is unique.
“Each group has different needs and a different approach. I always tell them we ‘want the right type of growth’ for our county. We are looking for the right mix of businesses and utilities for the Industrial Park. You can’t build for just one; the County must always be thinking about the next project.”
The County is also attracting U.S. owned/operated business interests as well. So far this year, the County has hosted three companies from the southeast region.
“We are on the radar now. These international firms may or may not happen,” Flanagan said, “but it is exciting just to be seriously in the running for companies like these. We have absolutely seen business generates business.”