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Nissan, telecommunications top growth factors

Forecast 2001: Central Mississippi

Construction of the Nissan plant and preparation for its spin-off companies, and the growth of the area’s burgeoning telecommunications industry, will impact Central Mississippi’s economic landscape in 2001.

“Our goal for the new year is to continue to build the future of opportunities for our people, a future bright with success and prosperity,” said Stephen G. Martin, spokesperson for the Mississippi Development Authority. “Our new targeted approach to economic development, Advantage Mississippi, a blueprint set forth by the governor to guide us in our economic development efforts, will continue to provide significant benefits to companies (and) to set Mississippi apart from competitors. The program, in total, is designed to create economic prosperity for a new century in Mississippi.”

Automotive uptake

Last November, Nissan Motor Co. announced its intent to build a $930-million plant in Madison County near Canton that will initially employ 3,300 workers with plans to expand to 4,000 workers at full capacity, and pay an average of $23 hourly, or about $48,000 per year. The plant is expected to open by the summer of 2003.

“The announcement of Nissan served as a catalyst, generating a tremendous amount of interest in both the national and international business community,” Martin said. “Mississippians can expect to see continued growth of the Nissan project as construction begins.

“Nissan’s confidence in Mississippi and its workforce sends a strong signal to business and industry that Mississippi is obviously a good place to do business.”

Telecommunications activity

According to a December report by the Institutions for Higher Learning, the estimated impact of the telecommunications industry on the metro economy in Central Mississippi is $401.7 million. That number is based on direct and indirect employment of 12,806 people.

Nearly 6,100 residents in the tri-county area, earning an average annual wage of $43,919, contribute to a $267.8 million payroll of employees directly employed by the telecommunications sector. Slightly more than 6,700 residents indirectly employed by the telecommunications industry account for a $133.9-million payroll. Because of telecommunications-related activity, $220.9 million in retail sales are generated, and $2.5 million is paid in sales tax to cities in the tri-county region.

“The key to this has been true public/private relationships we have forged,” Martin said. “We will continue to build upon these relationships and pursue every opportunity for Mississippi to assume a leadership role in the new global economy.”

Tourism impact

The Majesty of Spain Exhibition, scheduled March 1 to Sept. 3 at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion in Jackson, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area. More than 825,000 visitors viewed the St. Petersburg exhibit in 1996 and the Versailles exhibit in 1998. Last fall, the American Bus Association named the Majesty of Spain exhibit the top U.S. event for 2001.

To capitalize on the international event, the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau sponsored “The Enlightenment Series 2001,” featuring eight months of planned ancillary events.

The Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be held Feb. 4-7, 2001, and numerous events and festivals, many of them held annually, and numerous meetings and conventions will impact Central Mississippi’s economy in 2001, said Dee Gardner, spokesperson for JCVB.

Retail, service industries important in Vicksburg

Recent developments in the retail and service industries include a new $135-million hospital, growth of businesses in downtown Vicksburg, particularly along Washington Street, and retail establishments, with additional announcements of new retail growth expected this year, said Jimmy Heidel, executive director of the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce.

“Overall, the economy in 2001 should sse continued growth for every aspect of our diversified economy,” Heidel said. “Tourism continues to be a large part of our economy.”

In FY1999, the Vickburg Convention & Visitors Bureau reported 1,250 motorcoach tours with 42,850 passengers. Of those, 58% stayed overnight and spent $3.2 million in Mississippi, according to a report by the MDA.

“Look for more visitors to our area than ever before with the Spanish exhibition and newly announced tourist attractions in Vicksburg,” he said.

“Infrastructure development will begin by widening the channel into the port of Vicksburg,” Heidel said. “The Warren County Port Commission plans to begin construction of additional land at the port and construction of a rail spur to property near Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex.”

The chamber of commerce has fielded more than 8,000 inquiries for relocation material from retirees, who are interested in learning more about Vicksburg’s certified retirement program.

“Alcorn State University wants to expand into Vicksburg, and school officials are in the planning stages of including a facility to house expansions of Alcorn’s computer science program, its teacher education programs, and its hospitality courses,” Heidel said.

A coalition consisting of the chamber, economic development foundation, CVB, historical preservation committee, convention center, Main Street Association, city and county entities, will be created in 2001 “to provide a long-range plan to move the community forward,” Heidel said.

“Additional housing and community facilities will be developed to attract the additional workforce needed to be employed by business and industry,” he said.

Gaming, economy enhanced

by MBCI’s $750-million project

Last fall, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians unveiled its latest economic development project with the official groundbreaking of its impressive $750-million Pearl River Resort, which will feature the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino.

Under the new economic development plan, all of the Choctaw’s existing gaming and entertainment operations will fall under the overall umbrella of the new Pearl River Resort at Philadelphia, including Silver Star Resort & Casino and Dancing Rabbit Golf Club. When complete, the resort is expected to create 2,000 additional full-time jobs with an annual payroll in excess of $30 million.

The addition of the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino to the Pearl River Resort doubles the tribe’s gaming capacity. Silver Star Resort & Casino, which opened in 1994, has become one of the largest and most successful gaming enterprises on an Indian reservation, providing jobs to nearly 2,400 area residents.

The Choctaw Reservation consists of more than 25,000 acres in portions of Attala, Jackson, Jones, Kemper, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Scott and Winston counties. The tribe, led by longtime leader, Chief Philip Martin, is one of the state’s 10-largest employers, with more than 6,600 employees on an annual payroll of $123.7 million.

Retail driving Meridian, but downtown

renovation ‘extraordinarily significant’

In addition to the opening of a 204,000-square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter in 2001, which has already attracted national retailers to the area, and the purchase of approximately 650 acres for a new industrial park, the most “extraordinarily significant” economic development news for Meridian in 2001 is the development of the Marks Rothenberg/Grand Opera House in the heart of downtown, said Maureen Lofton, assistant for government affairs for the city of Meridian.

“The development covers almost a whole block in the downtown core,” Lofton said. “Downtown Meridian has been in the redevelopment phase for quite some time, beginning with Union Station, a multi-modal transportation facility that attracted more than $10 million in investments following the opening of it, plus residential development that includes con
dominiums that sell for $200
,000-plus.”

The Grand Opera House was housed on the second floor of Rothenberg’s, an anomaly in itself. The opera house opened

About Lynne W. Jeter

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