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Since 2001, JDA has been awarded $4.8 million in grants

As the Grady County Joint Development Authority seeks to find a new tenant for the former Higdon Furniture Company facility on Wight Road, officials point to the authority’s many successes in recent years as evidence of the authority’s contributions to and impact on the community.
Speaking before an audience that included not only members of the authority but also Grady County Commission Chairman Bobby Burns and Cairo Mayor Richard VanLandingham, JDA Chairman Charles M. Stafford said, “The Higdon project is the only one we’ve had go bad since I’ve been on the authority, and I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been here, but it’s a long time.”
The JDA is currently involved in a law suit, hoping to force Joe Higdon, who personally guaranteed the lease on the Wight Road plant, to make good on the lease-purchase agreement.
In the meantime, the authority has depended on additional financial assistance from both the city of Cairo and the Grady County Commission to the tune of $3,700 each per month in order to meet the debt service on the Higdon facility.
“A lot of the talk in the community is how much the authority is costing the taxpayers, but if you just look at the money brought into the community since 2001, you can see the value of the authority and the hard work this board has done,” Chairman Stafford said.
According to Stafford, since 2001 the JDA has applied for and successfully obtained $4,811,595 in grants to benefit the local business community. In addition, the JDA has assisted local industry with $1,711,595 in loans from the revolving loan fund.
The revolving loan fund is made up of money the JDA has applied for and been awarded by the state to create a pool of money to assist new and existing businesses to expand and create jobs.
Also on Tuesday, the authority discussed with Mayor VanLandingham and Chairman Burns their appreciation for the city council and county commission’s consideration of continued funding in 2010 as the JDA continues to market the facility to prospective tenants.
“We really appreciate everything the city and county have done for us,” Chairman Stafford commented.
JDA Executive Director Brian Marlowe says the vacant facility continues to attract interested prospects but, to date, no one has accepted a lease.
Mayor VanLandingham voiced his support for continued financial support to cover the debt service on the Higdon plant. “Even as an empty building, we can use it as a spec building to get other companies to look at our community. There are strong reasons to keep it and not sell it cheap,” the mayor said.
The Higdon facility is the only vacant, stand-alone spec building the JDA has to show prospective new industry.

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