Franklin County is dreaming big, and if the plans announced by Scenic Rivers Development Alliance come to fruition, those dreams will benefit all of Southwest Mississippi.
SRDA recently announced plans for a 200-room lodge-style hotel and 1,000-person conference center on 150 acres in the Homochitto National Forest along Lake Okhissa. Purchase of the federal land was authorized recently in the passage of the farm bill that included a special amendment authorized by U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Officially, when funds are secured, the 150 acres will be purchased by SRDA, a coalition of local governments in five southwest Mississippi counties. Some funding for the land purchase could come from the State of Mississippi. House Bill 669 would provide up to $500,000 for the purchase of the land. District 53 Rep. Vince Mangold is the principal author. Co-authors include Rep. Sam Mims, Rep. Angela Cockerham, Rep. Becky Currie and Rep. Jeffery Harness.
Meadville Mayor Lane Reed said the entire development is about one thing — improving the region’s economy.
“The overall effort here is truly for economic development,” Reed said. “We envision a situation in which you can come … spend a week in Southwest Mississippi at the Okhissa Lake Lodge and Conference Center.”
“This region has some of the best natural and economic assets in the state, but we are sometimes overlooked because of our sparse population,” said Joseph Parker, executive director of SRDA. “That’s all about to change dramatically with this project.”
The project has many obstacles to overcome, but the possibilities of what it could bring to the area are numerous. Certainly, a lodge-style hotel and conference center will bring jobs. They will bring tourists, who will eat in area restaurants and shop in area stores. The development will also likely bring additional business and industry that otherwise would not call Franklin County home.