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New and expanded facilities report shows recession’s impact

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Projects up, jobs and investment down

While the recession may be at an end, there is plenty of data that show Mississippi’s economy is far from fully recovered. A report from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) reveals some sobering numbers concerning new and growing businesses in 2010.

The MDA is quick to point out that its “New and Expanded Facilities” database is not comprehensive. The state agency gleans the information from a number of sources. However, the database is unique in that it covers the entire state, and at least offers a “snapshot” of activity — or lack of it — in all 82 counties.

There are some positives in the numbers from January-June 2010, compared to the same period last year. There have been 137 new and expanded facilities announced so far this year, compared to 82 during the same period in 2009. Forty-eight counties this year have seen at least one new or expanded project this year, compared to a mere 29 last year.

That is where the good news ends, though. This year’s new and expanded facilities are expected to create 3,177 new jobs, compared to 3,645 over the same period in 2009. And, the estimated capital investment is down more than 50 percent this year — approximately $1.427 billion this year, compared to approximately $3.165 billion in 2009.


Some surprises

County to county, there are some surprises. One is in the Delta, the poorest region in the state. A number of the Delta counties rank quite high, starting with Sunflower County, which has snagged five new and expanded facilities so far this year. That is seventh best in the entire state. Other Delta counties with a healthy number of projects announced this year include Panola (four), Warren (four), Holmes (three) and Washington (three). And, while Tunica County only reported two facilities, they are expected to create an estimated 500 new jobs and represent a total estimated capital investment of $301.5 million.

Non-Delta counties that historically have ranked low on the list but have strong numbers this year include Chickasaw (four), Prentiss (four) and Grenada (three).

Not all of the surprises are pleasant ones. Forrest County is of particular note. Last year at this time, the Southeast Mississippi county had registered nine new and expanded facilities, which were expected to create an estimated 233 new jobs and represented an estimated capital investment of $163.34 million. So far this year, Forrest County has posted a mere two projects, which are expected to create no new jobs and in total represent an estimated capital investment of approximately $6.9 million.

Other counties that typically post strong numbers but are off so far this year include Rankin (two), Jones (one), Lauderdale (one), Adams (zero) and Stone (zero).


Regional strength

Historically, the areas of the state with the most new and expanded facilities announced are the metro Jackson tri-county area (Hinds, Madison and Rankin), the three coastal counties (Hancock, Harrison and Jackson) and the Golden Triangle counties of Lowndes and Oktibbeha. And, they dominate this years report, as well.

Hinds-Madison-Rankin accounts for 20, or nearly 15 percent, of all of the new and expanded facilities announced statewide this year. On the Coast, the Hancock-Harrison-Jackson area is a close second with 19 combined projects, while Lowndes-Oktibbeha posts 10 facilities.

The top five counties, ranked by the number of new and expanded facilities are Hinds (14), Lee (11), Hancock (10), Lowndes (seven) and DeSoto and Harrison (six). In terms of estimated number of new jobs created, the top five are Lee (548), Tunica (500), Panola (413), Lowndes (270) and Chickasaw (178). Ranked by estimated capital investment, the top five counties are Lafayette (approximately $334.13 million), Tunica ($301.5 million), Hancock ($104.606 million), Panola ($97.71 million) and Hinds (approximately $88.14 million).


Making good

Broken up into types of projects, manufacturing has posted the most new and expanded facilities so far this year. Counting food and lumber processors, there have been 19 new and expanded plants announced this year. That is more than the all of the bottom-ranking sectors combined.

Airports, with 12 new and expanded facilities, are the only other sector to post more than three projects.

The recession’s affects are evident when looking at two other sectors. When the economy was healthy, church and school projects dominated the MDA’s database, reflecting communities with money to spend. So far this year, not a single church project has made the database. Only one K-12 project is listed. And, reflecting the state’s budget woes, a mere three higher education facilities are in the database.


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