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Progress Is Steady On Base Camp Building


The crew at Hill’s Construction, LLC, including (from left) Steven Hill, Steve Hill, Corey Blakely and Patton Ford shared the progress on the restoration of the former textile industry in Water Valley. The project is expected to be completed by late summer and the building will house classes for Base Camp Coding Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College.

WATER VALLEY – An extremely wet spring and a global pandemic have not slowed work on the transformation of a long-abandoned textile factory in Water Valley into the state’s first rural education and innovative hub. The restoration started following the Jan. 23 groundbreaking for Base Camp Coding Academy’s $4.7 million project that is funded with federal and state historic tax credits, new market tax credits, grants and private donations. When completed, the building will house classes for both Base Camp, a local non-profit coding academy, and Northwest Mississippi Community College. The 64,000 square-foot building will also have space for startup businesses and corporate sponsors.

Hill’s Construction, LLC, is the general contractor for the project and owner Steve Hill provided an update on his company’s work during the last three months, work that has included getting the building in the dry with a new roof and repairing more than 40 skylights as well as the interior demolition. The progress also includes addressing environmental issues with the removal of asbestos inside the building and removing or covering the asbestos on the roof. 

Hill explained that the environmental remediation includes sealing the concrete floor to keep industrial chemicals that contaminated soil in the area decades earlier from entering the building, a process that is called vapor intrusion. The floor work started with bead blasting the concrete and then sealing it with a special epoxy that keeps the vapors from entering the building.

While numerous subcontractors have been busy in this phase of the restoration, Hill explained that the pace will increase as crews can now work simultaneously.

“We are up and rolling now, basically everybody who has work to do in here now can all get in here together,” Hill’s Construction Project Manager Patton Ford added. He also explained the work will shift to the inside build out for the classrooms, offices, bath rooms, conference room, break room, incubator space and other portions of the building. 

Hill said the bulk of the subcontractors working on the project are located in north Mississippi and have utilized local workers when possible.

“We have assisted in any way to help them come up with manpower from right here. If they call and say they need help, we are steering them as local as we can,” Ford added.

Ford also said the goal is to have the building ready for Northwest and Base Camp to start moving furnishings in by the end of July. 

“We will probably be here doing the final cleanup the day before they have class, we are going to try to work together to get this done,” he added.

History of the Building And Project

Once described as the economic hub and heartbeat of Water Valley, operations started at the Central Street plant on Feb. 28, 1946 under the name of Rice Stix. In 1956, Reliance manufacturing purchased the factory. In 1960 it was purchased by Puritan Fashions. In 1969, the factory was purchased by a consortium of 25 individuals, who changed its name to Big Yank Corporation, according to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Production ceased in the late 1990s and the building was semi-dormant since then. The City of Water Valley used it for storage and kept it maintained in the hope that something was coming to use it. But few businesses wanted an older space in the middle of a small town. 

Last year Base Camp Coding Academy purchased the building from the City of Water Valley as the mammoth effort to secure funding for the work was nearing reality. Base Camp had first started classes in the second floor of the B.T.C. building on Main Street in 2016 and needed more room.

Described as a resurrection during the January groundbreaking, Base Camp co-founder Glen Evans shared the vision for Everest, the building’s new name.

“Everest is this building, but Everest is also a concept. Everest is Mississippi’s first rural education and innovation hub in Mississippi,” Evans told the crowd. 

With the new location, Base Camp will increase the number of slots to 35 for the year-long program designed to train students to be software students in 12 months. Each student selected for the program receives a full scholarship and works in a small classroom setting with real world technologies to learn the fundamentals of coding, app development and the life leadership skills to be successful in their career and competitive in the job market.

NWCC is projected to serve 216 students during their first year of operation in the building and 302 students by the end of the third year. The college will focus on IT training in addition to traditional courses that will include carpentry, electrical, plumbing, manufacturing and others. Adult education courses including GED classes will also be offered.

Northwest will occupy an estimated 28 percent of the building and Base Camp will occupy 18 percent of the building. Approximately 14 percent of the building will be utilized for a tech and tech adjacent start-up incubator.

Funding secured by Base Camp for the project includes $325,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission, $325,000 from the Delta Regional Author- ity, $130,000 from Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), $550,000 from a pair of USDA grants and $625,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality also provided over $30,000 for initial testing needed for analysis on the environmental issues at the property.

Funding from private companies include Core Logic, $250,000; Morgan White, $250,000; and Renasant Bank, $150,000. Both new market and historic tax credits are also allocated for the project and will fund almost half of the cost.

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