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DeSoto County road trip worth the gas money

As I See It

Several weeks ago I had opportunity to travel up into the northwestern part of Mississippi and speak to the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce. The stretch of highway from Interstate 55 eastward to Olive Branch is a sight to see. It is all practically brand new. New stores, new signs, new commercial buildings. All this “newness” is the result of the dramatic increase in population enjoyed by the area of Mississippi directly south of Memphis.

I always enjoy myself while on the road in Mississippi. The folks in Olive Branch were friendly and seemed receptive to my remarks about some of the business issues currently facing our state. I appreciate them giving me a good excuse to get out of Jackson for a day and visit some other parts of the state.

While I was in the neighborhood, I decided to drop in on Elvis and see how he’s doing. Actually, I didn’t see Elvis, but I did visit his cottage and 150-acre horse ranch in Horn Lake. He named the ranch the Circle G after his mother, Gladys.

Elvis bought the place in 1967 and spent a good bit of time there during the last 10 years of his life. The property has not been commercialized very much and is pretty much the way he left it. The old one-bedroom cottage, operating as a gift and flower shop, is showing its age and the horse barn probably wouldn’t pass an OSHA inspection.

Nonetheless, all that is about to change. A group of investors have bought the property plus several hundred acres of surrounding land to develop into a resort. The plans call for a large hotel, two golf courses and 40 B&Bs to be built on the property. The resort will be located on one of the main roads linking I-55 to the Tunica casinos.

Don Wilkinson, executive director of the Horn Lake Chamber of Commerce, graciously escorted me out to the ranch for a tour. A film crew from the British Broadcasting Corporation joined us. The film crew shot the location and interviewed Don about the history of the ranch and the plans for development. They even drafted me to play a typical tourist visiting the cottage/flower shop. I don’t think I have a future in film since it took five “takes” to successfully film me walking up some stairs and into the cottage. It was not a speaking role.

While riding with Don, we toured the DeSoto Commons commercial real estate development in south Horn Lake. Medical offices, commercial and retail space covering lots of acres is in the offing. The location, along Highway 51, is ideal. And, of course, like everything else in DeSoto County, it will be brand new.

What transformed DeSoto County and Northwest Mississippi from a poor area to the boomingist part of our state? Several recent trends have been major influences. The casinos at Tunica have had a significant impact. The shift of Memphis southward is also a major factor.

With its central location, Northwest Mississippi is a natural distribution crossroads. The proximity to the Memphis airport, Federal Express and UPS hubs helps a lot. Easy access to interstate highways with I-55 going north and south and, just across the Tennessee line, I-40 going east and west is a big plus.

Warehousing merchandise for shipment all over the Southeast is big business for this area. The Mississippi Legislature removed the warehouse sales tax last session and the warehousing business is flourishing in DeSoto County. In fact, it’s growing so fast I have to believe some of the warehousing plans were on the drawing board waiting for the Legislature to rescind the tax.

All of this adds up to a real success story. Jobs abound. New stuff everywhere. Excited people. No negatives that I can see.

I enjoyed my trip and am available to travel and speak wherever Mississippians invite me. Similar to the 1960s TV Western, “Have Gun, Will Travel,” starring Richard Boone, I “have opinion, will travel.”

And I work cheap — a little gas money is all it takes.

Thought for the Moment — One person with a belief is a social power equal to 99 who have only interests.

— Philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill

(1806-1873)

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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