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Cork talks development at Hernando Chamber luncheon

Photo: The scene at the Hernando Main Street Chamber Quarterly Luncheon listening to Mississippi Development Authority head Bill Cork. (Bob Bakken/

Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Bill Cork was the featured speaker at the Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Luncheon on Tuesday, May 21, held at One Memphis Street. Cork updated attendees on the new development going on in the state, highlighted by the recent groundbreaking for the Amazon Web Services data center development at two locations in Madison County, touted as the single largest capital investment in the state’s history.  The $10 billion project is expected to hire at least 1,000 jobs.  

But Cork said the numbers expressed in announcements like this are typically underestimations, adding the AWS project will actually be about double what was originally announced, and they have said as much.  

“In this particular case, Amazon didn’t want to also signal what its real true cost of the market was because this is primarily a real estate play,” Cork said. “These are giant warehouses that have servers and they sell space in those warehouses. But the bottom line is they spilled the beans in a speech at Millsaps College and said it was more like 20 billion.”

Cork talked about the development going on in North Mississippi, including the Marshall County electric vehicle battery plant planned, the state’s second-largest capital investment in history.  It’s a joint venture between Daimler Trucks and Buses, Accelera by Cummins, and PACCAR. It is expected about 2,000 jobs will be created. Cork said the batteries to be produced will be for more than just trucks.  

MDA head Bill Cork
(Bob Bakken/

“The batteries that they used to power these trucks can also be used for industrial backup power applications,” Cork explained. “So as a hedge against the trucking market turning down, these guys have a business strategy to be able to sell these batteries for major grid backup, industrial scale, power backup and other uses.”

In DeSoto County, Cork pointed to $560 million dollars in capital investment and over 1,800 jobs just in the last three years alone, “and that number is continuing to march forward. You have enormous amounts of opportunity looking at DeSoto County right now,” he said.  

Aside from jobs, Cork told the Chamber luncheon that Welcome Centers along the interstates, such as the I-55 Welcome Center south of Hernando, may have another purpose beyond being a place to rest and get tourist information.  He said visitors to the state’s Welcome Center were surveyed about what they are looking for and the answers were not what was expected.  

“They don’t really want a lot of antebellum antiques and, you know, Mardi Gras dresses,” Cork explained. “Eighty-five percent of the people that stop at the Welcome Center are business travelers. What do they want? Wi-fi, a place to stop and take a phone call, things like that. That is what we’re trying to convert our welcome centers into, a place for people to come and get what they want when they stop.”