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Monthly average at 54 projects for 2005; 73 averaged last year

Announcements down, but jobs, investment outpacing 2004

So far in 2005, Mississippi has seen a decrease in the number of new and expanded facilities announced in-state, according to data from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA). In 2004, the state averaged approximately 73 new facilities and expansions per month. This year, the monthly average has been approximately 54 projects.

However, both the estimated number of new jobs these projects are expected to create and their estimated capital investment are well ahead of 2004. So far in 2005, the estimated number of new jobs created per month is 1,167, compared to 1,065 in 2004, and the estimated capital investment per month is approximately $237.98 million, compared to $173.04 million last year.

According to the MDA’s “Summary of New and Expanded Facilities Announced in Mississippi: January 2005 thru May 2005,” there were a total of 268 new and expanded projects unveiled in the state, which are expected to create an estimated 5,835 new jobs and represent a capital investment of approximately $1.19 billion, more than halfway to the total 2004 estimated capital investment of approximately $2.08 billion.

A look at the list of the top 10 counties (there is a three-way tie for 10th) in Mississippi that have garnered the most new and expanded facilities in 2005 reveals an equal division among four areas of the state: metro Jackson (Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties); the Gulf Coast (Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties); DeSoto County with its close proximity to Memphis; and, the counties that boast the “Big Three” universities (Forrest/University of Southern Mississippi, Lafayette/University of Mississippi, and Oktibbeha/Mississippi State University). Lee and Tishomingo counties are the only exceptions.

Hinds County, the seat of state government and the business hub of Mississippi, almost laps the field with 58 total projects announced (10 new and 48 expansions). In fact, it has nearly as many total projects as the other metro counties of second-place Madison (34) and third-place Rankin (30) combined. The tri-county area’s total of 112 new and expansion projects represent more than 40% of all the projects announced statewide.

The Gulf Coast counties of Harrison (fifth place), Hancock (eighth place) and Jackson (10th place) saw a combined 27 new and expanded facilities, compared to fourth-place DeSoto County, which continues to recruit new businesses and see existing ones expand at a healthy pace (18 total projects, 10 new and eight expansions).

The “Big Three” university counties saw a combined 24 projects unveiled, with almost half (13) going to sixth-place Lafayette County. Ninth-place Oktibbeha County (six projects) and 10th-place Forrest County (five projects) run neck-and-neck.

The “aberrant” counties are seventh-place Lee (nine projects) and 10th-place Tishomingo (five projects). Lee County, with bustling Tupelo and a firm manufacturing base, has long had a consistently strong economic development effort, and its inclusion in the top 10 is expected. However, Tishomingo County in extreme Northeast Mississippi could be termed the “surprise” of the list. But Gary Matthews, executive director of the Tishomingo County Development Foundation, is not surprised and expects more positive news from the county

“We’ve had two good years — last year was even better than this one,” he said. “Our location between Memphis and Huntsville, Ala., is a huge plus, and we have an unbeatable combination of recreational and industrial offerings in the county.

“We have a large number of projects in the pipeline, and we expect to have at least two major announcements before the year is over.”

According to the MDA report, from January to May there were a total of 94 new facilities unveiled. These projects are expected to create an estimated 2,717 new jobs and represent an estimated capital investment of approximately $960.85 million.

As usual, it is expansions that make up a lion’s share of both the number of projects (275) and the number of estimated new jobs (3,118).

As evidenced by the expansions at Nissan North America, Yorozu Automotive and others, the automobile-manufacturing industry continues to be shot in the arm for Mississippi. And everything from aerospace to condo developments are represented.

However, just as they were last year, schools are the most prevalent on the new and expanded facilities list. Nearly 40 total projects, from elementary schools to four-year universities, are included. And that is not including such projects as libraries, daycare centers, community centers offering educational programs, etc. Not far behind schools are new and expanded churches and religious organizations.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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