Clay County has seen what West Point Growth Alliance director Lisa Klutts called “slow growth” in area businesses following the implementation of Yokohama Tire Manufacturing’s West Point plant in 2015. Another company has purchased an option on a vacant 200,000 square-foot facility and could potentially bring 300 new jobs to the area. Meanwhile a veteran area law enforcement officer has been appointed police chief of the West Point Police Department with plans to increase the number of officers and push community engagement.
The former Americold building on Church Hill Road may have a new tenant.
An unnamed poultry processing company has an option on the 200,000 square-foot facility, which was a freezer when Sara Lee operated in West Point. West Point and Clay County officials passed a series of matching tax exemptions in October in hopes of landing the project, which promises 300 jobs and $50 million in capital investments.
The jobs would pay between $15 and $17 an hour and would come with benefits.
Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said the project is codenamed “Project Polar” and stressed the company would be a processing plant only, not a slaughter house.
“That was key to us, that it wouldn’t be bringing in live chickens,” Higgins said at the time the tax exemptions were passed.
The company is currently doing its due diligence before giving a final yea or nay to the project.
West Point Police Chief
Seventeen-year veteran police officer Avery Cook has returned to where he began his law enforcement career as police chief of the West Point Police Department.
Cook was appointed chief in September after the retirement of former chief Tim Brinkley. Cook started at the department as a patrol officer more than 15 years ago and eventually worked his way up to assistant chief before he went to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office in 2013.
Cook entered the department with plans to increase recruitment and community engagement. Since he became chief, the department has hired three more officers — though it lost one who left West Point for deployment in Iraq — bringing the total number of officers to 27. The department is budgeted for 32.
Cook also plans to implement programs and family-friendly events to get West Point police officers more engaged with the community. He has already begun partnering with local churches to create neighborhood watches and wants to work with the West Point Consolidated School District to have police officers come into classrooms and talk to students.
In the last year, chain restaurants and similar businesses have sprouted up along Highway 45 South Alternate, said Klutts.
Klutts said the restaurants are evidence of the “slow growth” which has permeated West Point since Yokohama opened a plant in the city in 2015, bringing hundreds of new jobs to the area. Gradually, West Point has seen more businesses, more traffic and more sales and restaurant taxes as these businesses open their doors.
Among the new businesses are Taco Bell, Burger King, Little Caesar’s and a Love’s Truck Stop, she said.
“This might sound silly to some bigger towns but it’s huge for West Point to add these options,” Klutts said.
WORDS BY ISABELLE ALTMAN
PHOTOS BY LUISA PORTER