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MDA reports new, expanded facilities off pace in 2006

So far, 2006 is not shaping up to be the year 2005 was in terms of new and expanded facilities. In fact, according to numbers from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), new and bigger facilities are significantly off pace in 2006 when compared to the same period in 2005.

The MDA reports that between January-May 2006, there were a total of 192 new facilities and expansions announced. These projects are expected to create an estimated 2,716 new jobs and represent an estimated capital investment of approximately $712.25 million. Between January-May 2005, there were 220 new and expanded facilities unveiled, which were expected to create 3,679 new jobs and represented an estimated capital investment of approximately $1.06 billion.

Some surprises

A look at the top 10 counties in terms of project announcements so far in 2006 reveals some surprises. However, there are none at the top of the list. The metro Jackson area counties of Hinds, Rankin and Madison are first, second and third, respectively, positions these counties routinely hold. These three counties garnered approximately 51.6% of all the new and expanded facilities announced in the entire state.

While Hinds County, the center of state government and business, saw 41 new and expanded facilities from January-May 2006, that is down from the 46 it saw from January-May 2005. And, Rankin County is nipping at its heels with 35 facilities, which is five less than the same period in 2005. Madison County’s numbers have also fallen — for the first five months of 2006, there were 23 projects unveiled, compared to 28 during the same period in 2005.

Last year at this time, Lafayette County, home of the University of Mississippi, sat at sixth on the list. This year, it is fourth with a total of 15 projects, up from the 11 unveiled during the same period last year. Leading the charge in this North Mississippi county is multi-family residential developments. Lafayette County dominates the list of top 20 largest new facilities announced, placing seven projects on the list. And, all but one of those seven is either a condominium or apartment project.

Fifth on the top 10 counties list is Harrison County with seven total facilities. It was also fifth last year at this time, an impressive accomplishment considering the devastation wrought on the coastal county by Hurricane Katrina. Jackson County’s numbers are even more impressive — the Coast county stands seventh this year, compared to 10th in 2005. The third coastal county and the one hardest hit by Katrina, Hancock County, was eighth last year, but does not make the top 10 in 2006 (only two projects announced).
Combined, the three coastal counties saw 13 total projects announced, barely half the 22 they saw during the same period in 2005.

The sixth-place county is the first surprise. Alcorn County saw six total projects announced. By comparison, the Hattiesburg area counties of Forrest (it ranked 10th in 2005) and Lamar, which routinely grab headlines for attracting new businesses and expansions, combined had half as many projects unveiled as Alcorn County alone. Last year during this period, Alcorn County had seen one project announced.

Seventh place is even a bigger surprise. Tied with Jackson County is Sunflower County with four projects. That is twice as many announced in the largely rural Delta county during the same period in 2005, and the four 2006 projects are expected to create 125 new jobs, which is also impressive.

The biggest drop on the top 20 counties list is from DeSoto County. Last year from January-May, the Northwest Mississippi county saw 15 new facilities and expansions announced, ranking it fourth. During the same period in 2006, DeSoto County experienced only three project announcements, dropping it all the way to ninth.

Rounding out the top 10 is yet one more surprise — Monroe County, which is tied with DeSoto County at three projects. Last year during the January-May period, it ranked 14th.

Expansions still tops

It is common knowledge that while new facilities make the news, it is expansions that generate most of the jobs. That was certainly true from January-May 2006.

There were a total of 90 expansions unveiled over that period, compared to only 40 new facilities. These expansions are expected to create an estimated 1,559 new jobs, compared to the 1,050 created by new facilities.

Obviously, new facilities outstrip expansions in terms of their estimated capital investment. From January-May 2006, expansions brought an estimated capital investment of approximately $277.81 million. New facilities, though, represent an estimated capital investment of approximately $325.95 million.

Learning and worshiping

A good barometer of the health of communities is new and bigger schools and churches. When the number of school projects increases, it is a good indication that the area’s population is on the rise, and church work shows that congregations are expanding and have more disposable income.

And, the number of both of these types of projects is down in 2006. From January-May 2005, there were 29 school projects announced. During the same period in 2005, only 23 were unveiled. But, church work has plummeted. From January-May 2006, there were only six church projects on the MDA’s report.

During the same period last year, there were 26 new or expanded churches on the books.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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