Forrest County contributes $75,000 for airport project

By BETH BUNCH,

In its continuing effort to encourage economic growth in the Pine Belt, the Forrest County Board of Supervisors is partnering in a project which will continue the development of property at the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport. 

The airport authority has received a $250,000 grant from the Mississippi Development Authority which requires a match in funding of $250,000. Cooperative Energy/Dixie Electric Power Association has committed $100,000 with the remaining $150,000 being split by Forrest and Jones counties at $75,000 each.

A 40-acre site located at the airport will be cleared with an additional 120 acres cleared and grubbed, according to David Hogan, president of the board of supervisors.

According to airport director Tom Heanue, the trees have been cut on the 160-acre tract of land, with stumps and debris to be removed from the remaining area.

“This area will be grassed to provide an appealing and mowed site visible from Interstate 59,” Heanue said.

As part of the upgrades, Superior Drive will be overlaid and striped, which will promote an improved image to the available property located at the end of Superior, as well as properties along Superior Drive.

The cost of clearing, grubbing and grassing the site is expected to cost approximately $350,000, with the overlay of Superior Drive coming in at $150,000.

Heanue said the airport had previously lost a tenant and they don’t want that to happen again. He noted that Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree could be potential clients as all are looking to locate a distribution center in the area to service surrounding states as they continue to grow their businesses.

Heanue said a Dollar General distribution center, encompassing about 1 million square feet,  would bring in 400 jobs and approximately 1,000 trucks a day. 

“Those of the kinds of things we want to do with that property and not just grow trees,” Heanue said. “We have good team work between both counties and boards, as well as an economic committee made up of a representative from each of those boards. We meet and try and discuss the things we need to do to make that piece of property more appealing and be more competitive.”

Heanue noted that the last project that expressed interested in locating at the airport business park went to Texas because of a better site and more money.

“We’re going to try and do everything in our power locally, that doesn’t break us, to get

 people jobs, which they need.”

Currently, an Ashley Furniture Distribution Warehouse, Flowers Bakery Distribution Center,  Superior Manufacturing, which produces anti-fatigue mats, and Clearview Recovery Center already occupy space in the business park.

The airport business park has been open since the airport began business in 1974.  “It’s always been intended for economic development,” Heanue said. “At 160 acres, this is a big site, With the help of the EDA of Jones County and the ADP we’ve been marketing it with the Mississippi Development Authority, When looking in Mississippi, we want to show our economic region – two communities working together.”

As far as infrastructure, Heanue said there are some smaller projects that he can work into his budget. “The site prep and the roadwork at the big ticket items and we hope the state would kick in to help,” Heanue said.

Hogan said this project would work In correlation with the Evelyn Gandy Parkway road project with dirt from the airport property to be useduin that project. 

He said the county would continue to assist in finding the appropriate tenant for the site. “We are proud to be parternign with these entities and look forward to working to bring more jobs into the area,” he said. “I believe we have a proven track record of encouraging economic growth throughout the Pine Belt and this is just another example of that.”

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