By Gwen Sisson
Economic development and quality of life are big issues in every community, and the Winston County Development District Partnership works to creatively tackle these issues on a local level.
According to the organizational structure, the Winston County Economic Development District Partnership (WCEDDP) is an umbrella organization that “coordinates the efforts of five entities working to sustain the vitality and promote the economic development of Winston County,” including,
- The Louisville/Winston County Chamber of Commerce
- The Main Street Association
- The Economic Development Authority
- The Winston County Development Corporation
- The Winston County Business and Industry Incubator
These organizations work closely together with appointed leadership and staff members to “offer a range of programs and services to prospective industries, entrepreneurs and startup businesses, existing businesses and industries, visitors, county residents, and Chamber of Commerce members.”
Staff members work to bring the five organizations into a cohesive program for growth and development of Winston County.
Gerald Mills is the Partnership Executive Director. His economic development experience spans 30 years with the Mississippi Research and Development Center, the Mississippi Development Authority, and the Winston County Economic Development District Partnership. He is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma and is an instructor in the Institute for Organization Management, a professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is also a certified facilitator for training in Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Director Linda Skelton is IOM certified through the U.S. Chamber Institute in Athens, Ga. She also holds Main Street certification. She has 15 years of experience with the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Association and attends continuing education programs with the Mississippi Economic Development Council and the Mississippi Main Street Association throughout the year.
ZZZZ is the Business Incubator Manager. She has managed operations of the Winston County Business and Industry Incubator since its founding in 2002. She works with potential and current incubator clients and is responsible for upkeep of the incubator buildings. She also supports Partnership efforts by developing proposals and presentations for prospective industries.
The organization is also governed by a Board of Directors that helps guide the decision-making process as well as provide insights into local business and government relations. The current Economic Development District Board of Directors include:
• Grady Suttle – Retired Georgia-Pacific Executive
• Terry Reynolds – VP/Owner, Rives and Reynolds Lumber Company
• Wilson Webb – Louisville Utilities
• Wayne Moody – Moody’s Construction
• John Coleman – Southern Natural Gas
• Ralph Goss – Retired, WIN Job Center
• Mayor Will Hill – City of Louisville
• Mike Peterson – President, Winston County Board of Supervisors
• Mayor Tommy Gardner – Town of Noxapater
• Mike Dowd – Methodist Pastor
Gerald Mills, Executive Director of the Winston County Economic Development District Partnership, said the organization has seen growth in several areas, including the development of the Teter’s building that includes the incubator that houses start up business. He said the incubator also has added East Central Community College as a tenant, adding not only vocational classes but is now offering credit courses that continues to expand. Mills said that also means they are expanding their space needs in the incubator building.
The business incubator program has created a 501-c revolving loan fund that is administered through the Partnership organization. As part of that program, they have participated in eight small business startups or expansions, many in the downtown area that have been made possible by participating in this loan process.
Mills said the organization has also experienced growth by adding several programs like Boys and Girls Club, Getcha Your Head in the Game, Mississippi Scholars and Salute to Success to strengthen the community.
Mills said the Chamber is the voice for small business in the community.
“We have programs that strengthen our business community, add to our quality of life by fostering Red Hills Festival, Stew Stomp, Red White and Blue Parade, 4th of July fireworks, Winston County Tailgate Party, ticket sales for Carl Jackson’s Home for Christmas, as well as quarterly downtown promotions and beatification,” Mills said. “The biggest impact would be the location of East Central, Natron Forest Products, Louisville Railcar, and the expansion of Polo Products.”
WCEDDP board plays a significant role in keeping officials abreast of the latest economic development opportunities.
Mike Peterson, president of the Winston County Board of Supervisors and board member for the WCEDDP, said the Winston County Board of Supervisors has economic development as a priority among their numerous responsibilities.
“I sit on the economic district board to help determine sound policies that guide our economic development efforts,” Peterson said. “We always meet with prospective industries to assure them that they will be welcomed and afforded every incentive possible to locate in Winston County.”
Peterson said the Supervisors always grant tax incentives to qualified and existing industries to be sure they are and remain competitive in the marketplace.
“We go to great lengths to insure that our economic development efforts are well funded and for the past two years we have done so without any revenue from our tax base,” Peterson said. “We work hand in hand with our city partners to use county equipment and resources to work on public infrastructure to support our industrial base. Lastly, we use the county as a conduit to apply for every grant possible to support economic efforts to save the tax payers of Winston County money.”
For more information about the Winston County Economic Development Division Partnership, please call (662) 773-8719.