It has been nine years since Lauderdale acquired the land to build a new industrial park. The project had its first payoff Monday.
The I-20/59 Industrial Park has been empty for almost a decade. But economic development officials say they hope, with work beginning for the Handy Hardware Distribution Center, that it will be the start of something good.
A sign seen by motorists as they drive west on Interstate 20 welcomes the newest local industry. The center will mark the first business to locate in the city's new industrial park.
With 4-point-two million dollars in public funds from the city, county and state invested in the project, business leaders say in all the facility is a $20,000,000 investment.
"It's not only about a 488,000 square feet building and 175 jobs, it's about the beginning of a new park with an access road," said Wade Jones, president of EMBDC.
It's that access road linking the park to the interstate that Jones says is so important. The projected date for that interstate interchange to be finished is shortly after the facility opens in late 2010.
County officials say this, along with other federal grant funds, are what truly is helping to fuel this and other possible projects.
"We will build roads in conjunction with this facility here, and water and sewer lines, which will open up the other 500 acres for new ventures to come in," said Hank Florey, president of the Lauderdale County board of supervisors.
"I foresee this going forward very quickly and people taking action and getting their businesses here because of our access to the interstate," said Mayor Cheri Barry.
Officials say the structure will be an eye catcher from the interstate, standing 30 feet in height, with 488,000 feet with an additional 80,000 square feet for expansion.
"In Houston where we have another facility, we started out with 220,000 square feet which we thought would last us 10 years. It didn't," said Tina Kirby, president of Handy Hardware Wholesale. "We added another 100,000 square feet which we thought would last us 10 more years and it didn't. We finally added on 240,000 square feet and we think if everything goes as planned the same thing is going to happen in Meridian."
The projected opening date for the Handy Hardware Distribution Center is within the mid to latter part of 2010.