Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Water, Water, Water!

One of my fondest memories of being out on the road, traveling this great country of ours, was a breakfast I had with Leland Speed in January 2005. Leland, a young thinking 70 year old, was head of the MS Development Authority, having taken the job for 2 years at a salary of $1. He had founded and was still chairman of two public REITs headquartered in Jackson, MS, but was asked by Governor Haley Barbour, one of the best governors I’ve seen in creating new jobs for his state, to head up economic development activities in MS.

At that breakfast, Leland laid out a vision of creating multiple lakes in rural MS to serve as an economic development tool for those communities. His thought was that not only would the lakes help to create jobs and tax revenue in these communities, but they would also help to attract entrepreneurs looking for second home locations who might decide to open new businesses. Leland had an “out of the box” idea that was brilliant with little downside.

Jack Moody, who is in charge of developing this lake program in MS, is planning a symposium on the subject in Jackson, MS, on February 4, 2009, that I plan to attend. He is going to have demographers, developers, contractors and economic developers in to lay out Leland’s vision. A PowerPoint on the subject and its economic impact for a community can be seen here.

Moody was also my tour guide of several lakes in the Hattiesburg, MS area. Our first lake was Canebrake, a 250 acre lake that was developed by Dr. Bennett York, a local oral surgeon. Moody called it, “the nicest such development in the state,” and after seeing the clubhouses, golf course, infrastructure and houses, it was easy to see why he saw it as the best.

With Canebrake almost completely built out, York has moved onto Big Bay, a 1,100 acre lake that he hopes to have dammed up by early in 2009.

With 83,500 miles of potential streams that could be developed and five feet of rain each year, most of which flows out of the state, the potential for lakes in MS is incredible. I can’t wait to get back there in February to learn more.

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