- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

GREENVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Just south of the former Fruit of the Loom plant and the barb-wired fence that surrounds the Washington County Regional Correctional Facility west of U.S. Highway 82, lie 695 acres of fertile farmland.

The hope, however, is that its future will be anything but agriculture.

Beneath those acres lie a 4-inch gas line, water and sewer mains and electrical connections.

The Chamber & Economic Development Center of Washington County late last year secured a two-year option on the 695 acres that comprise Phases I and II of the proposed Greenpoint Industrial Park, with hope of finding an industry interested in acquiring the property and bringing much-needed jobs to the area.

“There are 795 acres in all, and two of the three phases are under option for two years,” Cary Karlson, the chamber and EDC’s executive director. “Phase I is 320 acres, and Phase II is 375.”

A potential third phase comprises an additional 100 acres and would make the industrial park contiguous from the levee to U.S. 82. The option “allowed us to access a Mississippi grant program to provide half the costs” of completing tests and studies on the property, Karlson said.

An $18,000 grant from the Mississippi Development Authority’s Site Development Grant Program provides funds for infrastructure, soil testing and related initial development costs on industrial-development projects.

The chamber and EDC are putting up the matching funds. The money will go to perform due diligence to assure prospective purchasers the land is capable of supporting a factory.

To that end, the EDC in January awarded a contract to Hooker Engineering Services Inc., of Greenville, to conduct an environmental impact study, soil density tests and to check for any cultural relics, principally those that might have come from the Delta’s original, Native-American residents.

The property is owned by Gaylon Lawrence Jr., one of the nation’s largest agricultural landowners with holdings in excess of 165,000 acres in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri.

Lawrence, an Arkansas native, lived in Greenville for four years beginning in 1999, the year he founded Benoit-based Delta Pine Land Management LLC. He currently lives in Nashville.

Jack Turnipseed, who manages Delta Pine Land and oversees more than 55,000 acres of Lawrence’s farmland in Mississippi and southern Arkansas, conducted the bulk of the negotiations with the EDC to secure the two-year options, which were effective as of Dec. 4.

Cary Karlson and the EDC came to us,” Turnipseed said. “The main attraction for them was the property’s proximity to the Port of Greenville and Greenville itself. We’re not real crazy about selling the land, but we want to help Greenville. We want to see it prosper.”

Added benefits In addition to Greenpoint’s proximity to the port and to Greenville, the infrastructure in place was key for the EDC.

“There are not a lot of sites that large with that kind of infrastructure,” Karlson said.

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