The Process: Costco and the City of Ridgeland

RIDGELAND, MISS. AUGUST 17, 2015—In discussing the news of high-end retailer, Costco, developing a site on Highland Colony Parkway, Mayor Gene McGee stressed the very competitive nature of economic development and the importance of it to every municipality. “Because continued, strong expansion of the economic and tax base allows citizens of Ridgeland to enjoy a high level of city services and quality of life, we are always open to discussions with corporations who share our vision for the City’s continued managed growth and prosperity,” stated McGee.

It is this competition to land the most desirable corporations that requires a process that is secretive by nature. Both parties want to ensure that information gathering and discussions of potential projects be kept confidential. This is to keep business competitors unaware of plans, to deter other municipalities from attempting to lure away new business and to avoid news of new development driving-up land prices. According to Alan Hart, Director of Community Development, “Ridgeland has long been a leader in economic development because of its professional standards. We will continue to work in this manner so that we can continue to effectively grow our City.”

Beginning in 2006, the City of Ridgeland, along with residents, businesses, strategic planners, city department heads and others, worked diligently for over a year, to determine goals, strategies and challenges for creation of a Master Plan that would become the blueprint of the future. The Master Plan, finalized and approved in 2008, is the directive on development within the City of Ridgeland.

In 2014, Costco’s Mississippi real estate representative was looking at a number of locations in Jackson and Madison County to build a large retail development. Rumors began to circulate of Costco locating within the Metropolitan area. In August 2014, City of Ridgeland was asked to provide information on six (6) sites along I-55 for consideration. Upon learning that Lake Harbour Drive Extension was a planned project, Costco’s consultant determined that the Highland Colony Parkway site suited the requirements of Costco. In this meeting, City of Ridgeland was advised that all discussions must be held in strict confidence.

In September 2014, the Costco representative began the process to acquire the real estate. It was at that time that City of Ridgeland named the project “Santa Claus” so that discussions could be on-going without divulging the name of the corporation. In December 2014 the Costco representative chose Andrew Mattaice to lead development and acquisition.

At a planning retreat February 27, 2015, the Mayor informed the Board of Alderman that Costco was the anchor tenant being considered and stated that all discussions must be confidential.

Because Mayor McGee was contractually forbidden from acknowledging that conversations were on going between Costco, Mattaice and the City of Ridgeland, McGee could only say that such conversations among the public were rumors. Such requirements for secrecy are common in economic projects and were, in fact, in place when Nissan, Toyota and other corporations have looked at sites in Mississippi.

At 10:30 a.m. on August 12, 2015, Mayor McGee informed Mattaice that public speculation was growing and incorrect information was being circulated that needed to be corrected. At that time Mattaice authorized Mayor McGee to disclose that Costco was the developer after Costco officials consented to the release.

“Quite frankly, I have been surprised by the negative comments of some residents while the majority of citizens are very excited and supportive of Costco locating within City of Ridgeland. I assure all citizens that, while I was not allowed to even acknowledge “Costco” as a possibility, once being released of the confidentiality requirement, my door is open. That has been my policy since day one, and will continue,” stated McGee.

Project Timeline

  • March 2014 – Dick Ambrosino contacted Costco’s local real estate team and proposed the exact same site being discussed today along with a finance deal that didn’t apparently interest Costco at the time.
  • August 26, 2014 – Costco’s local real estate team met with city of Ridgeland officials at which time the City of Ridgeland offered a drawing that illustrated 6 available sites along I-55 for their consideration. During this meeting they immediately gravitated to the site being discussed today after realizing Lake Harbour Drive Extension was already a planned project. At this meeting, we were advised that all discussions must be held in strict confidence and could not be discussed.
  • August 28, 2014 – Ridgeland officials offered a conceptual site plan illustration on the site being discussed today for the local real estate team’s discussion with Costco.
  • September 2014 – the local real estate team began looking into acquiring the real estate after they decided this was the best site for them. It was at this time, we coined the project “Santa Claus” in order to continue discussions and protect confidentiality with regard to Costco.
  • December 2014 – the local real estate team selected Andrew Mattiace to lead the development and acquisition.
  • February 27, 2015 – the Mayor and Board of Aldermen participated in a city planning retreat at which time the Mayor informally informed the Board that Costco is the anchor tenant being considered and stated that all discussions must be confidential.
  • Throughout the 2015 legislative session – city officials participated in meetings with lobbyist, state-wide elected officials, and representatives and senators to lobby for state assistance in funding Lake Harbour Extension.
  • 9:00 a.m. April 28, 2015 – City officials met with Costco officials and their architect and engineer to discuss the review process.
  • 11:30 a.m. April 28, 2015 – City officials met with Andrew Mattiace and Costco officials to discuss other details of the project.
  • June 2, 2015 – Mayor and Board of Aldermen conducted a public hearing and adopted a zoning ordinance amendment that added the classification of Large Master Planned Commercial Development which establishes a use type that requires a minimum 15 acres and a 100,000 sq. ft. tenant in order to have a fueling center.
  • 10:30 a.m. August 12, 2015 – Andrew Mattiace authorized Gene McGee to disclose “Costco” after Costco officials consented to the release.