Diaz asks supervisors to get Ceres sites ready for development

Published 6:10 pm Saturday, December 15, 2018

Development is expected to continue at the Ceres Industrial Complex, but in order for that to happen, Warren County must lay the groundwork to attract developers.

Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, spoke to the Warren County Board of Supervisors Monday to discuss creating site-ready projects at two locations in the industrial park — 140 acres on the northeast corner of the industrial complex that includes the water tower, and 38 acres adjacent to the vacant spec building along Interstate 20.

Diaz said it would be wise to begin advancing economic development in these areas now that the Love’s Transportation Center deal has closed.

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“There’s an opportunity, potentially, to take some of those funds and continue to advance economic development, specifically at the Ceres Industrial Park,” Diaz said. “It is advisable to push forward with due diligence on these sites in the Ceres Industrial Park.”

Diaz said the first step would be a phase one environmental geo-technical research, as well as wetland delineation, endangered species research and soil testing.

“These are all the minimum things a project traditionally wants you to have,” Diaz said. “And Entergy Mississippi requires that if they’re going to stamp the site as a ready-site for economic development.”

Diaz said he believes the 140-acre site will be very marketable from the point of view that is more than 100-acres.

“It is important that we have a site for those kinds of projects,” Diaz said. “Because projects usually either come in small acreage or more than 75 acres.”

He said the 38-acre site would be appealing because of its location along I-20.

“It’s a great site because it has interstate visibility,” Diaz said.

He said both sites have been submitted for potential projects, but “we cannot answer a lot of the detailed questions.” He said specifically developers want to know where are the wetlands?

Diaz said the intent is to work with the county engineers to get both locations site-ready and have them certified by Entergy Mississippi.

“That would really put us at the top of the list of what Entergy is showing,” Diaz said.

He added that once Unified Brands relocated their operations in the former Simpson Duravent Building in August, there is only one vacant building available at Ceres.

“And I don’t think it’s going to be available for too long,” Diaz said. “So it’s important that we have some good sites for potential projects.”

He said he will have a final cost estimate from the engineers for phase one and put it on the agenda for the next Port Commission meeting.

Spec Building

Supervisor Richard Selmon asked Diaz if he projected any plans for the 14 acres that includes the spec building.

“I have a number of different thoughts and suggestions,” Diaz said. “I would like to come back and visit again and give you some feedback on what I’m finding out. I’ve been trying to see if we can get a broker to take over, but I would like to come back with all the information and then give you some recommendations.”

He said the spec building isn’t a large location for development, but is an excellent site.

“That is a wonderful site,” Diaz said. “It’s not big. It would be better if it were 50 (acres) or more, but the visibility from the interstate would be a huge asset for the right company that is looking for brand recognition.”

Love’s Transportation Center

Diaz said he expects the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Love’s Transportation Center to take place in March.

“They expect their final plans to be completed by the end of January and we are working on the groundbreaking ceremony right before construction,” Diaz said.

According to County Administrator John Smith, the total amount the county received was $603,350 for those 20 acres in November, in addition to $37,500 for contract extensions from the developers.

In February, the supervisors approved the potential sale of 20 acres at the industrial park for the creation of a Love’s Transportation Center.

Diaz said at the time it was a $10 million-plus investment and potentially create up to 50 new jobs and include a restaurant.

There are currently 14 Love’s Transportation Center in Mississippi and more than 450 in 41 states.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors will hold their regular meeting Monday at 9 a.m. in their board room on the third floor of the Warren County Courthouse.