MERIDIAN — A new industrial park large enough to attract a mega-development such as a major
car manufacturing operation to east Mississippi is one of the goals for the year 2000 in Lauderdale
“Our area has an extremely strong transportation system in rail, interstate highways and air,” said
Slater Barr, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corp. “The missing element
for us is a large industrial park that would be suitable for very large industrial projects looking at
Mississippi such as automotive facilities. Currently, we don’t have a park with the size acreage to
be attractive to fit those projects. That’s what we are moving towards. At the same time that park
will allow us to meet the needs of the distribution sector, which also needs large tracks of land and
would be a good fit with our transportation system.”
Barr also hopes to lease the now vacant Delco-Remy building to a new industry. He said that
facility is one of the largest and best manufacturing facilities available in the South. Strong incentives
on the project should also make it attractive for a new manufacturer.
The year 2000 is also expected to bring additional retail growth to the area. The biggest retail
development of 1999 was the announcement of a new retail power center anchored by a Wal-Mart
SuperCenter. Additional infill developments are expected next year in the Supercenter area and the
Bonita Lakes Mall area.
Downtown revitalization is also expected to continue throughout the year. A downtown educational
facility is being considered that would have facilities to serve students from kindergarten through
college. An entire block of buildings has been purchased to be renovated into apartments, and one
of downtown’s older buildings is being renovated into luxury condominiums.
“There seems to be a lot of interest moving back to downtown,” Barr said. “It is certainly a great fit
for a big sector of the population. You’re seeing it happen to communities all over the country. We
also think we will continue to see some new restaurants and specialty retail going in downtown.”
Forest Mayor Fred L. Gattis said they hope to keep maintaining the same rate of progress in 2000
as was seen in 1999.
“Our existing industry have all made improvements recently, and I’m just hoping they will have a
good year like they have in the past,” Gattis said. “Raytheon has been getting pretty good defense
contracts, and plans to be employing a lot more people next year. The poultry industry is
recovering. We have about 12,000 poultry employees, and employment is on the increase.”
A new industry, Lapco, is planning to employ 50 people when the prefab building materials
manufacturer starts operations in January. Lapco produces prefab poultry and livestock buildings
and other products.
Gattis said employment is high, and anyone who wants a job in Forest has one.
“I’d like to have eight more people right now in city government,” Gattis said.
Revenues from sales taxes are also on the increase. The city takes in about $140,000 per month in
sales taxes revenues.
In Philadelphia, the Silver Star casino is planning to add to its staff, and a $2.5-million project is
underway to extend the airport to 5,000 feet long and 75 feet wide. The city is also building a new
fire station with help from a Community Block Development Grant from the state.
Philadelphia Mayor Wayburn Waddell said that the city has a high occupancy rate in local hotels,
averaging about 75%. Four busy highways — Mississippi 15, 16, 19 and 21 — run through town.
A new motel is under construction in the west section of the city.
“The highways kind of overload us with traffic, but a lot of the travelers spend money here,”
The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is in the process of building a bypass from
Mississippi 19 to Mississippi 16 on west side of Philadelphia. Currently property is being
purchased for the bypass project that will remove most of the heavy truck traffic going through the
heart of town. MDOT is also surveying land to finish up four-laning Mississippi 19 from Collinsville
Waddell said that the road project will open a four-lane highway to Meridian, which should be a
big economic boost for Philadelphia. He said future plans to four-lane Mississippi 15 from one end
of state to the other would also benefit the area.
Right now the area has an unemployment rate of 4%, which Waddell said is a disincentive for new
industry to move into the area. But the city hopes that the airport improvements being made next to
the industrial park are going to increase the city’s prospects for attracting a new industry.
The city also recently opened a new coliseum that seats several thousand people. Waddell said
activities held at the Neshoba County Coliseum bring a lot of people into town on weekends for
activities such as horse shows and conventions.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.