By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
An announcement Tuesday morning from the state's Public Service Commission and Atmos Energy in Meridian signaled the beginning of a project that many local leaders hope will carry a large economic impact for years to come.
Central District Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey announced the economic growth project along with David Gates, who is the president of Atmos Energy's Mississippi Division.
"The passage of a recent order by the Commission has given Atmos a vehicle to create opportunities for growth investment that will provide immense benefits to Meridian, Lauderdale County and East Mississippi," Posey said from the offices of Atmos Energy on Sixth Street in Meridian. "The expansion of natural gas lines to these three industrial parks will enable this area to better compete for business and industry in the future."
Atmos Energy will tackle the multi-phase, multi-year project with an initial investment of $7.5 million. The timing and cost of Phase II and Phase III will be determined as the need for natural gas rises through demand in these areas. In all, Gates said, it will take about six years to complete all aspects associated with construction of the pipeline system that will run 8-inch high, pressure pipe more than 23 miles. The three industrial sites that will receive the pipeline service are the Sonny Montgomery Industrial Park, the I-20/59 Industrial Park and the Kewanee Mega-Site.
Gates said given the competitive nature of attracting business and industry to an area, the installation of high pressure, high capacity natural gas line services are integral to convincing those industries to settle in this area.
"Mississippi is well positioned to attract industries which use natural gas in their manufacturing process or to fuel their operations," Gates said.
Wade Jones, director of the East Mississippi Economic Development Corporation, said Atmos is taking on a huge investment that will pay dividends for everyone in the long run.
"This will greatly enhance our ability to attract business and industry to our area," Jones said.
Meridian Mayor Percy Bland said this has been a missing piece of the infrastructure puzzle needed to entice industries to the area.
"You have to have the foundation in place before industries will take the time to even come and look," Bland said.
Lauderdale County Board of Supervisor Wayman Newell of District 2 said, "Many industries want to move into a situation where the site is ready for them and not have to wait on any further infrastructure to be constructed," Newell said. "This will be a huge selling point for us."