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From the Ground Up

Where do you get ideas for your columns? That question is the most common I receive. The answer is that I just keep my eyes and ears open. For example, the following are nine questions that I got asked during the past week.

Question: What are the symptoms of a declining neighborhood – both residential and commercial?

Answer: In a residential neighborhood, look at the home ownership rate. Generally, when the percentage of renters begins to increase it is evidence that a decline may be starting to occur. Property values are usually at their highest when there is the highest rate of home ownership.

In a commercial district, watch the businesses that replace existing businesses. If the new business is not as substantial as the one it replaced then there may be a shift occurring in the land use of the area. For example, when a jewelry store is replaced by a pawnshop or a hardware store is replaced by a nightclub, the district is probably experiencing a decline.

Question: Should the chamber of commerce and the economic development agency in a community be the same organization?

Answer: This is a tricky question because there are two schools of thought. The trend in economic development is for those type agencies to merge into a partnership that markets the community and serves the existing businesses. On the other hand, there are economic developers who maintain that the organizations should be separate because there is a conflict. Sometimes existing businesses feel threatened when new businesses, especially their perceived competitors, are recruited into the community and given incentives. It’s a balancing acting that must be addressed in each community. One thing is clear, however. An economic development organization or chamber of commerce that forgets its existing businesses will be in trouble in a short time.

Question: Who’s going to be the next governor?

Answer: Whoever receives the most votes. Seriously, I think Mississippi will be well served by whomever wins.

Question: What’s the truth about those TV infomercials on how to make a fortune buying real estate with no money down?

Answer: The ones I’ve seen lately stretch the truth quite a bit. For example, one gave an example of an “investor” who walked away from a closing with over $20,000 cash. The only way I know for that to happen is for a buyer to borrow $20,000 more than the sales price. He or she may have $20,000 in pocket, but it will have to be repaid. Making money in real estate is a lot harder than the TV shows would have one believe. I believe that one makes money when buying real estate, not when selling real estate. Usually, that means that the buyer pays less than market value. The only way to do that is to buy from a distressed seller. If you’re interested in this topic, I suggest a book titled “No Money Down,” by Robert G. Allen. Turn off the television.

Question: Where are the highest growth areas in Mississippi?

Answer: According to the US Bureau of Census, Population Division, March, 1999, the fastest growing counties in Mississippi in terms of population from 1990 to 1998 are DeSoto (42.7% increase), Madison (35.4% increase) , Hancock (27% increase) and Rankin (25.8% increase).

Question: What is net migration?

Answer: Net migration is the difference in population of an area from one date to another date after adding births and subtracting deaths during the period.

Question: Sir, did you know you were going 47 in a 30-mile per hour zone?

Answer: Unfortunately, yes.

Question: What is “new urbanism?”

Answer: According to an article by Richard C. Ward in the Winter, 1998-99 edition of Development Strategies Review, the New Urbanism Community would have the characteristics of an environment built around the late 19th/early 20th century.

This would include sidewalks, street trees, a grid pattern, row houses or dense single family homes on narrow lots, front porches, a shopping district within walking distance, good access to public transit, public open space, and schools, post office, library, etc. within walking distance.

Question: Will Mississippi ever get off the bottom of the economic ladder?

Answer: We are certainly headed in the right direction.

In 1969, Mississippi’s per capita income of $2,382 was 62.1% of that of the United States.

In 1998, the state’s per capita income of $18,958 was 71.8%.

Phil Hardwick’s column appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is hardwickp@aol.com.


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