Jackson — When it comes to economic development, Hinds County’s biggest strength is location, location, location. That’s why the Hinds County Economic Development District is aggressively recruiting distribution centers, warehouses and logistics companies to the area.
“I heard that location is important when I first started 12 years ago and it’s still true,” said Jason Brookins, executive director. “We are so centrally centered in the mid-South we can be a good distribution center and can better serve automotive plants and other industries.”
While the county intends to continue going after all high-paying technology jobs, more emphasis will be placed on plastic injection molding and metal stamping. Research by an alliance of interested partners indicates a need for these industries that the area can meet. The Metropolitan Economic Technology Alliance is made up of the counties of Hinds, Copiah and Simpson, the city of Jackson, the Chamber of Commerce, Airport Authority, Entergy and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We have no suppliers here for metal stamping for certain parts of cars and we can fit that niche,” Brookins said. “Now we can target metal stamping and plastic molding suppliers to get them to look at our region and state.”
Other focuses for Hinds County include food distribution, all types of technology and logistics — the updated version of warehousing that encompasses hauling, storing, records keeping and delivering of supplies.
Nissan is an example. They don’t truck supplies. They hire third-party logistics companies,” said Benjie Barham, director of business development for the district. “We have three logistics companies in Hinds County.”
Nissan has more employees from Hinds County than any other county in the state, he said.
He said the county will still recruit manufacturers, but the central location, available buildings and change in the nature of business will cause the economic development organization to change to meet current needs.
“It’s typical these days to bring in a company of 50 to 100 employees and 100,000 square feet of space,” Barham said. “The spectrum has spread out over the last few years to include retail and professional services, too.”
Brookins, who’s president elect of the Mississippi Economic Development Council, said there’s a trend for economic developers to get more involved with locating retail businesses to their communities. Traditional economic developers and chambers of commerce have become much more similar.
‘Job creation is job creation’
“Job creation is job creation no matter what it is,” he said. “It’s not just hundreds of jobs, but a handful of jobs that count too and can really make an impact in small towns. A truck stop in Bolton might end up being the largest taxpayer in town.”
In that vein, Brookins is pleased that a Home Depot is coming to Clinton and a new Kroger store just opened in the unincorporated town of Byram.
“I think the retail emphasis will continue,” he said. “Counties can offer assistance with infrastructure. As we continue to see communities pop up beyond city limits, we will continue to see efforts toward bringing in retail.”
He said tax increment financing allows counties to help offset costs of infrastructure so retail developers don’t bear the whole burden.
Asked to predict the next economic development focus or cluster, Brookins said he thinks it may be Web site development and medical technology. “We say technology, but that’s a catchphrase and can include many things,” he said. “It may lean more toward automotive technology.”
Expansions and more
Barham listed several recent expansions in Hinds County. Pilgrims Pride Foods has grown from 14,000 square feet to a 75,000-square-foot facility and added 25 more employees at its Hawkins Field Industrial park location. Minntech, a dialysis solutions and distribution company, is building a larger space and adding 20 jobs. That expansion should be up and running in late summer.
Puckett Machinery Company is in the midst of a $4.5-million expansion. The Central Mississippi Medical Center added 45,000 square feet of physicians’ offices and clinic space in a $13-million investment. Mega Plastics, a locally grown company in Clinton, expanded last year.
“We probably have one dozen active projects in one stage or another,” he said. “We have several that are about to be announced and ongoing things that will have a big economic impact.”
He said the planned Jackson Convention Center and the new Technology Communications Center will lead the charge for downtown Jackson. Although these are not county issues, Hinds County is fully supportive. “Any type advantage we can have of getting large organizations into the metro area, increasing our exposure to executives and marketing the downtown, will help,” he said. “These facilities will give Jackson a shot in the arm.”
The Hinds County Economic Development District includes the municipalities of Bolton, Clinton, Edwards, Jackson, Learned, Raymond, Terry and Utica.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.