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Number of new, expanded facilities down, but investment, jobs up

Please note: The numbers from the Mississippi Development Authority’s “New and Expanded Facilities Report” were used for this article. The agency uses a variety of sources for its data, which it believes to be accurate, but does not verify.

It depends on the number one wants to use when determining whether 2007 is shaping up to be as good as 2006 in terms of new and expanded facilities announced in Mississippi. One of the three figures is off the 2006 pace, but the other two are through the roof.

The number of projects is down so far this year when compared to 2006. In 2006, there were 192 new and expanded facilities announced from January through May. This year, there has been only 163 over the same period.

But those 163 projects are expected to create an estimated 6,803 new jobs and represent an estimated capital investment of approximately $4.25 billion. That is well over the estimated 2,716 new jobs and capital investment of approximately $712.25 million recorded during the first five months of 2006.

So, what is driving this seeming discrepancy?

Mega-deals

It is some very high-ticket projects that have boosted 2007’s numbers, led by Toyota North America. The automaker’s plant in Blue Springs near Tupelo alone rings in at more than double (approximately $1.52 billion) the total estimated capital investment for all projects, new and expanded, announced January-May 2006.

Other large new projects this year include Bacaran Bay Casino Resort in Biloxi ($600 million) and the PACCAR Inc. engine plant in Columbus ($348.4 million).

Not surprisingly, these mega-projects have also created a large share of the jobs so far in 2007. Toyota (2,000 jobs), Bacaran Bay (2,000 jobs) and PACCAR (500 jobs) alone have almost doubled the estimated number of new jobs created by both new and expanded facilities during the first five months of 2006. Throw in the expansions such as at Howard Industries (1,000 jobs) and American Eurocopter Corporation ($30 million, 130 jobs), and new facilities such as Galleria ($900 million), PSL-North America ($61.5 million, 275 jobs) and the General Electric jet engine component factory (100-plus jobs), and it has been the mega-deals that have really pushed up the state’s numbers.

Leading the pack

The MDA also shows nearly the entire state is seeing positive growth. More than half (45) of Mississippi’s 82 counties have recorded at least one new or expanded facility so far in 2007.

Still, most of the counties that routinely land near the top in new and expanded facilities are there again, and one is having an incredible early 2007. Hinds County has seen a whopping 51 new and expanded facilities so far this year, nearly a third of all such facilities announced statewide, and more than double the number of projects unveiled in the number two-ranked county, Rankin (21).

The tri-county area of Hinds, Rankin and Madison easily outdistance all other areas. With Madison County’s 13 projects, the three counties have recorded 85 new and expanded facilities so far in 2007, more than half of all facilities announced statewide.

The numbers also reflect the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and the pattern of rebuilding. In Hancock County where Katrina made landfall and left the area a veritable wasteland, there have been less than half of the facilities announced as in Jackson County on the other end of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and nearly half as few as Harrison County just to its east. Still, the three counties count 20 new and expanded facilities (Jackson, nine; Harrison, seven; and, Hancock, four). That ranks the region as second only to the Hinds-Rankin-Madison triumvirate.

A few counties’ performances have to be rated as surprises. Clay and Neshoba counties recorded three facilities each. That ranks them eighth among all Mississippi counties. Leflore, Panola, Winston and Simpson counties each had two facilities announced. That equaled the performance of such traditional heavy-hitters as DeSoto, Lauderdale and Lafayette counties.

Not as hot

DeSoto, Lauderdale and Lafayette counties are not the only ones who are below usual performance levels. The Pine Belt is home to a couple of counties with lower-than-usual numbers.

Jones County recorded three total facilities, not surprising for the county that always does well in recruiting and expanding business. However, nearby Forrest County and Lamar County, usually near the top as they enjoy the growth of Hattiesburg, had only one facility each. Covington County just to the south had none.

Yet another disappointing showing is from Pearl River County. Just to the north of the Katrina-wrecked Coast, it saw a tremendous surge in residents in the aftermath of the storm. Yet, not a single new or expanded business was listed.

And, Tunica County, which has recently done well by using its gaming industry as a foundation for drawing new business, also has no listing so far in 2007.

More surprises

There are some interesting projects listed on the MDA’s report. One that stands out is Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park. The themed amusement park, to be located in Pelahatchie, will employ 30 and represents an estimated capital investment of approximately $5 million.

Some of the largest new and expanded facilities each year are churches, and 2007 is proving no exception. However, the sticker price on some of these projects is surprising. First Baptist Church of Hattiesburg has begun a $13.5-million expansion, while Northminister Baptist Church in Jackson has launched a $3.4-million expansion. A total of six church expansions made the MDA’s report.

New and expanded educational facilities are also strongly represented on the 2007 report. New and expanded K-12 facilities total approximately $19.1 million, while post-secondary projects total approximately $18.2 million. Several kindergartens and day care centers are also listed.

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

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