Monroe County EPA board approves fiber marketing, election results – Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

BECKER – Between the Monroe County Electric Power Association’s annual meeting and regular meeting Aug. 3, action items included approving the results of elections for three board seats and a contribution to a regional marketing plan centered on broadband availability.

Board members Tom Crook, Walt Willis and Avery Duncan Jr. were reelected to their seats on the board. For District 5, Crook received 865 votes, compared to Jason Sullivan’s 345 and Andrea Stevens’ 245.

District 4 results were Willis with 1,084 votes, Duncan with 765, Kevin Clark with 539 and Steve Pyle with 377. While there was one spot at stake for District 5, there were two spots for District 4.

There were 9,650 ballots mailed to cooperative members. A total of 1,725 ballots were received, with 112 not accepted because they weren’t authorized or signed correctly.

Frank Owens was voted as board president and Phil Prewitt as vice president.

Other members of the board are Brad Leach, Roy Lee Lindsey, Elaine Dobbs and Mechelle Welch.

In other business, North Mississippi Industrial Development Association (NMIDA) Executive Director Skip Scaggs presented a regional marketing potential highlighting broadband availability for the purpose of economic development.

“NMIDA has been around since 1957 and since then, economic development has changed. We have a 30-county region that we touch. Right now there are 13 EPAs in the NMIDA region, and 12 of those 13 are doing fiber expansions. Those 12 NMIDA members are investing over $815 million to provide high-speed internet throughout the region. In our discussions with locally owned developers, we see this as an incredible opportunity to talk about and market North Mississippi as a high-speed region. You don’t spend three-quarters of a billion dollars and not look for exposure,” Scaggs said.

He is currently fundraising to provide for a Jackson-based marketing firm, Maris, West & Baker, to complete a regional marketing plan centered on broadband availability to brand the region.

“We are not the first to brand high-speed fiber. The City of Chattanooga, Tennessee did it with their term Gig City. The City of Kansas City, Missouri did it around their Google Fiber Kansas City. What we believe is we are the first region – not a municipality or a city – but the first region that can come together and say, branding-wise, we have high-speed fiber here,” Scaggs said.

The marketing package will include a small standalone website, branding, digital brochures, a print ad, email templates, search engine optimization components and short videos for online advertising to be strategically placed.

“Just the fact rural Mississippi is spending three-quarters of a billion dollars is going to get somebody’s attention in big metropolitan areas,” Scaggs said.

Target markets through the campaign include site selection consultants, people who have the ability to work from home and alumni from Mississippi State University and Ole Miss.

The total cost for the marketing plan is $151,000, and Scaggs has raised $80,000 through regional partners and $6,000 through municipalities thus far.

“We think the more partners on the team, the better we’ll play,” Scaggs said.

The Monroe County EPA Board of Directors approved to contribute the $6,157 request towards the marketing cost.

The contract with Maris, West & Baker has already been executed, and the first phase of the brand name and conceptualizing the marketing plan is underway. Scaggs hopes for the marketing plan to be running by November.

Monroe County EPA General Manager Barry Rowland said as of Aug. 3, 1,335 M-Pulse Fiber customers had been connected. As of the Monroe County EPA’s June 8 board of directors meeting, 868 customers had been connected.

As part of the annual report, Monroe County EPA’s net profit was $1,563,864.59. Sales for the year totaled 205 million kilowatt hours, which was a one percent increase from last year.