Mississippi became landlord over a valuable piece of Tishomingo County real estate Tuesday when ownership of the Yellow Creek Reservation was transferred from the federal government to the state.

State ownership of the politically abused tract near the confluence of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Tennessee River at Yellow Creek opens what development officials and Northeast Mississippi leaders hope will be a new and genuinely productive era of the site. Three programs initiated directly by the federal government or at its urging fell by the wayside before Congress approved and President Clinton signed legislation transferring title of the land to Mississippi.

The state apparently plans to take the lead in development and marketing of the property through the Department of Economic and Community Development. The work, however, would be shared with a regional board comprised of five Tishomingo countians and four residents of surrounding counties. A cooperative effort would be appropriate for at least three reasons:

- Northeast Mississippians, particularly Tishomingo countians, need and deserve a voice in what's recruited for development at Yellow Creek;

- A board with members other than from Tishomingo County continues the site's regionwide connections; and

- The state's resources provide far more than any one county or several counties could muster to recruit the best kinds of enterprises to fit the site and its prime location.

Yellow Creek, with several thousand acres of developable land, offers Mississippi an opportunity to develop in its northeastern counties a private enterprise park that could exceed every expectation of the three failed government-related projects.

The location, with rail, highway and water transport, is enviable.

The infrastructure put in place by the government projects could be adapted for many kinds of private development.

Several large and many small enterprises could operate within the boundaries of the reservation.

Mississippi, through special legislation, invested $30 million in Northeast Mississippi to make the region ready for what the federal government was supposed to make of the site. The state's investment in facilities, education and infrastructure makes a return on its own. However, the investment was made on the potential of the Yellow Creek site.

The potential needs to be realized. Mississippi, thanks to its congressional delegation and President Clinton, holds a golden opportunity to do what the federal government could not.

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