Pearl used to be the red-headed stepchild of the Jackson area. It had a stretch of Highway 80 littered with half-empty strip malls and fast food restaurants. In many cases, the neighborhoods were old and rundown.
We laughed when the town was mentioned. Puuhhrrrl? We always stretched out the one syllable and put on our best redneck accent when we said the name. When it came to the competition among the outlying towns, Pearl always seemed to be the one in last place.
Pearl got a world-class baseball park a few years ago. They got a state-of-the-art movie theater. Now, they are breaking ground on an outlet mall. By Christmas, we’ll all be driving to Pearl to buy upscale Coach handbags.
Pearl is a lesson in the “turnaround.” A turnaround happens when a down and out contender beats expectations. It happens when someone with the will and the managerial skill steps in and makes something new out of the old sow’s ear. It happens when someone ignores popular opinion and just keeps turning around and going in another direction.
In business, turnarounds make great stories. A couple years ago, Netflix botched it with their customers and were threatened with extinction. This year, they are the darlings of Wall Street. Now, J.C. Penney is the dog. Will they die a slow death or will they turn it around? Stay tuned. Turnarounds are contrarian plays. They are lessons in the danger of allowing old ideas and perceptions to turn into cement in our psyche.
Pearl has turned a corner, and we have stopped laughing. At the groundbreaking for the outlet mall, the mayor said, “Y’all see this smile? It’s hard for me to wipe it off my face.”
Puuhl. I’m practicing my best British accent when I say that now. The name has taken on a whole new meaning.
Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is President of New Perspectives, Inc., in Ridgeland, 601-991-3158. She is also an Assistant Professor of Finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and her website is www.newper.com.