lectric power companies in Mississippi do a lot more than keep the lights on. In many communities throughout the Magnolia State, the power company plays a pivotal role in facilitating company expansions, putting people to work, and ensuring that families have food on their tables.
Statewide, four major power companies fulfill these roles: Mississippi Power, Entergy Mississippi, TVA and Cooperative Energy. We recently caught up with Frank Dawson, economic development manager at Mississippi Power, to get a handle on how the largest power company in the state manages its economic development operations.
How does Mississippi Power support economic development efforts statewide?
DAWSON: Mississippi Power partners with the local economic and commercial development entities in our 23-county service territory to attract and recruit new industry to Mississippi. We also work with businesses and industries that are already here that are looking to expand their operations. Additionally, we work with the Mississippi Development Authority to promote site locations that are development ready, highlight existing industry and take a strategic approach to meaningful and targeted recruitment for our service territory.
What were some of your organization’s biggest wins of 2021 and 2022?
DAWSON: The announcement of the relocation of Ocean Aero from San Diego, California, to Gulfport, Mississippi, was the largest highlight of 2021. For 2022, the announcement of Enviva’s $250 million expansion into the Bond area outside of Wiggins was a major win for southeast Mississippi. Landing these projects highlights our motivated and productive workforce.
What are your top economic development priorities for the remainder of 2022?
DAWSON: For 2022, Mississippi Power will continue to support the growing energy needs of the data center sector. Additionally, recent legislation approved this year allows for new growth within the healthcare sector. Our region is continuing targeted business attraction efforts within our existing clusters in aerospace, wood products and emerging blue economy.
Are you investing into renewable energy?
DAWSON: With nearly 160 MW of available solar generation capacity, Mississippi Power is currently the state’s largest partner in renewable energy. We’re also currently building the state’s first solar generation/battery storage facility in Walnut Grove.
Do you offer any special incentive programs to businesses?
DAWSON: Working with the Mississippi Development Authority and local developers, we may offer incentives to projects to help provide a competitive advantage. Reliable electric service is vital for all of our customers. We consistently invest dollars into our power delivery system to ensure high reliability and allow for growth and expansion across our service territory.
Lending Site Selectors a Hand
Mississippi Power is far from alone in backing economic development efforts across the state.
The Entergy Mississippi Business and Economic Development Team provides a plethora of services to help growing companies. These include resources to help firms find available buildings and sites, workforce options, business intelligence, incentives, research and engineering services, site selection assistance, and project management help. Entergy maintains websites that help connect companies to these resources: The main site at www.goentergy.com and the Mississippi Site Selection Center at www. mississippisiteselection.com.
TVA covers 15,553 sq. miles of northeast Mississippi, where its economic development team — led by Kristi Brown in Starkville and Josh Thornton in Tupelo — helped attract 3,000 new jobs and $610.8 million in capital investment in FY2020.
Cooperative Energy is also a partner with business when it comes to site selection and expansion. Cooperative Energy is one of the largest energy providers in the state, with 11 member cooperatives, powering 437,000 Mississippi homes and businesses in 55 of Mississippi’s 82 counties. That’s the largest territory in the state.
Cooperative’s diverse power generation mix (including solar and nuclear) helps the state land large projects like the FedEx Ground distribution center that went into the I-59 Supply Chain Park in Hattiesburg.
The Cooperative team helped the Mississippi Development Authority place the $20 million project in the park.