Housing is the key word around Hinds County right now. The county formally approved 11 new subdivisions in 2005, compared to only one in 2004 and three in 2003.
“In prior years there would have been no more than five approved. Housing is a big deal in Hinds County,” says Jason Brookins, executive director of the Hinds County Economic Development District. “Private developers research housing and know it will make money. It has to do with growth throughout the metro area and the diverse economy.”
He says the top three components of the area’s economy are government, healthcare and educational institutions. “That cushions the economy and allows us to have smaller downturns. It also impacts the school districts, housing and the infrastructure,” he said. “Our organization doesn’t get involved but we keep those things in mind, and we work with business developers for retail businesses and offices.”
About 1,400 displaced residents from Hurricane Katrina added to the housing needs in Hinds County. The hot spot right now is Byram where people started moving 15 years ago. It continues to grow and needs more retail, homes and schools. Clinton and Raymond are also hot spots for housing growth along with the unincorporated areas between Byram and Raymond.
vOf the 11 subdivisions approved in 2005 in the county, four are on Gary Road, three are on Siwell Road and one each on Seven Springs Road, Raymond Road, Midway Road and Clinton-Tinnin Road.
New types of homes are being developed to meet housing needs. Just last week a ribbon-cutting was held for Perry Direct Homes, manufacturers of modular homes. Brookins points out that modular homes are different from mobile homes and that Perry Direct will serve as a broker to help people get into these homes.
“I don’t know where the people are coming from,” Brookins said. “There is some shifting of population. Hinds County held steady numbers in the last census.”
Hinds County has three different types of areas — urban, suburban and rural. All three are experiencing growth at this time, according to Brookins, who said new businesses are opening daily. There are also businesses coming and going throughout the metro area.
“We market what the private sector builds and we’re all out there trying to make it happen,” he said. “People in Jackson may say business is leaving the city but there are some businesses who want to relocate to the city.”
Hinds County’s largest business sector is food processing and distribution. That is followed by metal fabrication and distribution, the automotive industry and technology. Brookins says the area is positioned well for businesses related to the automotive industry and the broad technology category.
“Each adds its part to our economy,” he said. “In an urban area, technology is big and can grow. Even companies with four or five employees can have a big impact with their global connections.”
The county is also in Mississippi’s Gulf Opportunity Zone and has had weekly meetings to inform businesses about these incentives.
“We’re trying to encourage everyone to utilize this act,” Brookins said. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries about building component manufacturing that can be done here and delivered to Hattiesburg and the Coast.”
He said these companies can locate in Hinds County and not have the workforce issues they might have in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Although he is not yet ready to make an announcement, Brookins said a company that builds structural insulated panels will announce its plans in 90 days.
There are also several expansions happening. Those include Mississippi Materials Company’s relocation off Interstate 220; Tri-State Brick’s $8-million expansion that is tied to the housing market; ABC Supply in Byram; Hemphill Food Service; and Copper Sales that was purchased by Firestone Metal Products.
“The biggest things going for us are location and infrastructure that supports that, including Interstates 55 and 20, the airport and railroad,” Brookins said. “We also have an available workforce — not a cheap workforce.”
Although Jackson is not considered a college town, Brookins says it really is when all the area institutions of higher learning are considered. That means a lot of young, entry-level workers along with a strong, educated workforce.
“When you have location and workers, incentives come after that,” he added.
The Hinds County Economic Development District partners with a number of entities to further the area’s business needs. Those include the Mississippi Development Authority, City of Jackson, City of Clinton, Raymond Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Medical Mall, Metrocenter Area Coalition, Mississippi Technology Alliance Innovation Center, Fondren Renaissance, and Belhaven Main Street. The Fondren and Belhaven organizations are keeping property values up and that helps economic development, Brookins said.
“We want to prove we have success stories, quality of life and incentives,” he said. “Our cooperation with some of these groups falls into the category of marketing.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.