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Meridian planning large new industrial park to attract major development

Business 2000: East Central

MERIDIAN — A new industrial park large enough to attract a mega-development such as a major

car manufacturing operation to east Mississippi is one of the goals for the year 2000 in Lauderdale


“Our area has an extremely strong transportation system in rail, interstate highways and air,” said

Slater Barr, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corp. “The missing element

for us is a large industrial park that would be suitable for very large industrial projects looking at

Mississippi such as automotive facilities. Currently, we don’t have a park with the size acreage to

be attractive to fit those projects. That’s what we are moving towards. At the same time that park

will allow us to meet the needs of the distribution sector, which also needs large tracks of land and

would be a good fit with our transportation system.”

Barr also hopes to lease the now vacant Delco-Remy building to a new industry. He said that

facility is one of the largest and best manufacturing facilities available in the South. Strong incentives

on the project should also make it attractive for a new manufacturer.

The year 2000 is also expected to bring additional retail growth to the area. The biggest retail

development of 1999 was the announcement of a new retail power center anchored by a Wal-Mart

SuperCenter. Additional infill developments are expected next year in the Supercenter area and the

Bonita Lakes Mall area.

Downtown revitalization is also expected to continue throughout the year. A downtown educational

facility is being considered that would have facilities to serve students from kindergarten through

college. An entire block of buildings has been purchased to be renovated into apartments, and one

of downtown’s older buildings is being renovated into luxury condominiums.

“There seems to be a lot of interest moving back to downtown,” Barr said. “It is certainly a great fit

for a big sector of the population. You’re seeing it happen to communities all over the country. We

also think we will continue to see some new restaurants and specialty retail going in downtown.”

Forest Mayor Fred L. Gattis said they hope to keep maintaining the same rate of progress in 2000

as was seen in 1999.

“Our existing industry have all made improvements recently, and I’m just hoping they will have a

good year like they have in the past,” Gattis said. “Raytheon has been getting pretty good defense

contracts, and plans to be employing a lot more people next year. The poultry industry is

recovering. We have about 12,000 poultry employees, and employment is on the increase.”

A new industry, Lapco, is planning to employ 50 people when the prefab building materials

manufacturer starts operations in January. Lapco produces prefab poultry and livestock buildings

and other products.

Gattis said employment is high, and anyone who wants a job in Forest has one.

“I’d like to have eight more people right now in city government,” Gattis said.

Revenues from sales taxes are also on the increase. The city takes in about $140,000 per month in

sales taxes revenues.

In Philadelphia, the Silver Star casino is planning to add to its staff, and a $2.5-million project is

underway to extend the airport to 5,000 feet long and 75 feet wide. The city is also building a new

fire station with help from a Community Block Development Grant from the state.

Philadelphia Mayor Wayburn Waddell said that the city has a high occupancy rate in local hotels,

averaging about 75%. Four busy highways — Mississippi 15, 16, 19 and 21 — run through town.

A new motel is under construction in the west section of the city.

“The highways kind of overload us with traffic, but a lot of the travelers spend money here,”

Waddell said.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is in the process of building a bypass from

Mississippi 19 to Mississippi 16 on west side of Philadelphia. Currently property is being

purchased for the bypass project that will remove most of the heavy truck traffic going through the

heart of town. MDOT is also surveying land to finish up four-laning Mississippi 19 from Collinsville

to Philadelphia.

Waddell said that the road project will open a four-lane highway to Meridian, which should be a

big economic boost for Philadelphia. He said future plans to four-lane Mississippi 15 from one end

of state to the other would also benefit the area.

Right now the area has an unemployment rate of 4%, which Waddell said is a disincentive for new

industry to move into the area. But the city hopes that the airport improvements being made next to

the industrial park are going to increase the city’s prospects for attracting a new industry.

The city also recently opened a new coliseum that seats several thousand people. Waddell said

activities held at the Neshoba County Coliseum bring a lot of people into town on weekends for

activities such as horse shows and conventions.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com.


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