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Officials point to education as top reason for success

Madison tops list

When a new business opens its doors in the City of Madison, it receives a house-warming gift of sorts from the Madison the City Chamber of Commerce.

It is a packet of important phone numbers and addresses, pertinent names and faces and a load of general information about the area.

Also included is Madison’s median household income. Businesses go where the money is, so it is no wonder Madison’s business community has grown as fast as any in the Southeast the past decade and a half.

At almost $74,000 a year, Madison’s median household income is tops in the state.

“That is very important (in luring new business and industry),” said Rosie Vassallo, executive director of Madison the City Chamber of Commerce.

Vassallo can point to a number of reasons Madison residents’ average more money per paycheck than any other in Mississippi. The first is education. Vassallo claims 88 percent of people in Madison have at least a high school diploma. Madison city schools are consistently among the top public school districts in the state.

“That’s the No. 1 question prospects have, is the schools,” Vassallo said.

With education come better jobs and bigger salaries. With bigger salaries comes the ability to spend more, which brings with it more opportunities for businesses to flourish.

“It really does help when you have that (level of education in a large portion of the population),” Vassallo said. “They can afford the homes and have a good amount of discretionary income. All that works together.”

Madison’s population continues to grow, with Vassallo citing figures that put the average per-month increase between 50 and 125 people.

Once they live in Madison, people rarely leave. Vassallo and the Chamber recently completed a survey of available homes in Madison, and only three percent of the total number of homes in the city was listed for sale.

“It all works together,” Vassallo said. “It’s a cornucopia of good business, good schools and great residents partnering together.”

Of the 20 ZIP codes with the highest median income in Mississippi, the Jackson area has four. Aside from Madison, Northeast Jackson, ZIP code 39211, Ridgeland and Brandon made the list.

Major developments have cropped up in each area. The Renaissance at Colony Park, a residential and retail development, opened last year in Ridgeland. Brandon and the Rankin County area has seen its share of booming business, with the construction of Trustmark Park and Bass Pro Shops and the Dogwood Festival Market.

Outside of the Jackson metro area, the two pockets with the biggest concentration of wealth are the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the two counties just south of Memphis.

Southaven comes in second behind Madison with a median household income of $67,560. Olive Branch, Hernando, Nesbit, Walls and Horn Lake, all in DeSoto County, made the list. Senatobia, in Tate County just south of DeSoto County, came in at 19th.

Coastal towns are holding fast to jobs and workers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The highest-ranked coastal city was Diamondhead, with a median household income of $51,449.

Ocean Springs came in ninth.

Margaret Miller, executive director of the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce, said the city, in West Jackson County, provides a good lifestyle for professionals.

“It’s been nice that a lot of our people have stayed here and continued to work,” she said.

“We felt obviously like we were holding our own (after Katrina). We have a lot of the upper management (living here) from the casinos, Ingalls and Northrop Grumman. We’ve become a beacon for young professionals, and our medical community has just exploded.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@msbusiness.com .

About Clay Chandler

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