ow do you put a price tag on speed to market? You can’t, but Mississippi is working to ensure that its investors maximize their ROI when choosing a site in the Magnolia State.
Need a mega-site for an automotive assembly plant? Check. Need space to build batteries for electric vehicles? Check. Need warehouse space close to a port? Check. Whatever parcel you’re seeking to expand your business, the Mississippi Development Authority stands ready to assist you with not just a tract of land or a building, but also with considerable dollars.
Case in point is the big news that Gov. Tate Reeves announced in January in Jackson: The state is investing nearly $25 million in site development projects. These new site development grant funds are being made available through the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the RESTORE Act.
“Shovel-ready sites are a top priority for companies seeking a new location,” said Gov. Reeves. “By investing in these sites, we are laying a foundation upon which companies can quickly locate, expand and create jobs for future generations of Mississippians.”
MDA recently awarded $1.64 million through the Site Development Grant Program for projects that fall under the Ready Sites and Premier Sites areas. Ready Sites require at least 20 highly developable acres; the site must be work-ready in six months; and the site must be capable of having utilities installed in 12 months. Ready Sites may receive up to $50,000. Premier Sites require at least 100 acres and must have qualities that differentiate them from other sites, such as being in high-demand locations, having large-scale acreage or having significant utility infrastructure in place. They must have a workforce able to attract the intended target. Premier Sites may receive up to $250,000 in funding. Those awarded funding include:
MDA has also committed $11.64 million in Site Development Grant – Select Sites funding. The Select Sites program was created last year to increase the number of competitive industrial sites available to meet prospects’ needs. Twenty of the state’s top publicly owned industrial sites were evaluated by Greenville, South Carolina–based Strategic Development Group. Of these sites, the following were invited to apply for Select Sites funding:
We recently caught up with MDA Deputy Executive Director Laura Hipp for a more in-depth discussion on how the Site Development Grant Program works:
What was the impetus for the MDA’s new site development program?
LAURA HIPP: MDA created the Select Sites grant — a new Site Development Program category — last year to build upon the successes we had with the Standard Site Development Grant Program. In 2017, recognizing the need for more competitive and project-ready sites, the Legislature created and funded the “standard” Site Development Grant. The program has continued to receive the Legislature’s support, and it has been funded each year since.
MDA has awarded funding to help with more than 50 site development projects at 45 sites around the state in the last four years, but we did recognize we needed more highly competitive sites to meet prospective businesses’ needs in a short amount of time. Therefore, we created the Select Sites program, and we are evaluating existing and prospective sites and identifying those that are most competitive. They are then invited to apply for funding.
Will the initial $25 million fund be expanded in future years?
LAURA HIPP: The $25 million announced by the Governor included more than $1.6 million in standard Site Development grants, more than $11.6 million in funds for Select Sites grants, and more than $11.6 million in site development funding through other programs, like the RESTORE ACT and the Appalachian Regional Commission. When we look at the Site Development Grant program, we’ve received $23 million in funding to date, and the Legislature is making another $40 million available later this summer. With these additional Site Development Grant funds, we’ll be accepting another round of standard Site Development Grant applications later this year and will continue to award Select Sites grants.
Currently, what are the mega-sites that are being marketed by MDA?
LAURA HIPP: DeSoto County, Golden Triangle, Madison County, Marshall County and Port Bienville are just a few of the sites with over 1,000 acres that we are marketing. They are ready to go. Mississippi has 20 major sites that are being developed as high-priority sites, and more than 200 sites with over 200 acres in varying states of readiness. Gov. Tate Reeves’ plan is to have 30 high-priority sites, including mega-sites, that will be ready within a few years to address the speed-to-market demands of the most discerning site selection processes.
What are the requirements for local communities and regional partnerships to participate in the program and receive funding?
LAURA HIPP: Both the standard Site Development Grant program and the Select Sites program are intended to assist local economic development organizations, cities and counties in developing greenfield sites for industrial development. MDA can help with a wide range of physical site improvements, as well as site due diligence. To date, we’ve only had the authority to assist with projects at publicly owned sites, but with a recent legislative change, we can now assist with due diligence activities at sites that are under option, and we can help with public infrastructure improvements at sites that are publicly owned or under public option. Both programs require matching funds. Because the intent of the Select Sites program is to fund site development projects that yield highly competitive sites, MDA may invest more in these sites.
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Mississippi Development Authority.
For more information, contact Tammy Craft Dudley at TCRAFT@mississippi.org. On the web, go to www.mississippi.org.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.