City, business owners meet to try to find ways to keep shoppers at home

Published 2:15 pm Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Business leaders and city officials met Tuesday to come up with ideas to fix the economic leakage that takes place when local residents go elsewhere to spend their money.

Both the city and local business owners want residents to spend their money locally to increase the amount of sales tax collected in the city and to increase profits for local businesses.

The Tuesday morning meeting brought together members of Picayune Main Street, the Minority Business Group, the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce and city officials.

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Picayune has a prime location that should attract new businesses, but it seems little is being done to capitalize on it, council member Leavern Guy said. The population increase after Hurricane Katrina shows that Pearl River County is the first dry place near such flood-prone and heavily populated areas as the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Coastal Louisiana.

“We’re in an ideal location for big things to happen here, but what are we doing wrong?” Guy said.

He said at one point an “aristocratic government” kept things out of Picayune to keep pay low. Guy said he hopes the city is beyond that point.

Just as the population increased after Hurricane Katrina, insurance agent Ted Musgrove and Guy, also an insurance agent, both speculated that the next big storm will bring more people to the area. The aim is to prepare Picayune for that kind of growth, they said.

Guy would like to see at least a 15 percent increase in sales tax collections between now and December.

Picayune Main Street Manager Reba Beebe said that with the Street Fair coming up in November and Christmas not far behind, sales tax collections should increase.

Guy said the group at Tuesday’s meeting needs to find out what other areas offer where Picayune residents go to spend their money that Picayune does not.

Musgrove suggested building a mall in the city. A mall could be put in an area of high traffic, or the goods and services its tenants would offer could be able to create a high traffic area, making it suitable for still more commerce.

A mall also might bring in a nice theater and restaurants. Musgrove said he has received calls asking where a 16-screen cinema could be located. Providing services such as a mall, nice restaurants and movie theater would help keep local people from driving to neighboring areas to enjoy themselves on the weekends, he said.

Another way to create high traffic areas in the city would be to build a service road in the area of the Wal-Mart shopping center, Guy said. The extra land opened up for development could be used to attract new businesses.

Interim City Manager Harvey Miller suggested using 16th section land to build new businesses. There is a large amount of such land in the city, said Miller, who is also a member of the Picayune school board, which manages that land.

Dr. Debbie Moore, a chiropractor made a list of small stores in neighboring malls with services Picayune does not offer. She suggested the city could try to appeal to those stores to locate branches in Picayune.

Beebe said there are a number of locally owned businesses that people have put everything they have into. She does not want to see those stores suffer from encroaching franchise stores from other areas. Beebe suggested instead that the already established stores could begin to offer goods and services carried elsewhere that are not now offered in local stores.

An example of Beebe’s idea is a local printing shop that recently began carrying office supplies, she said.

Guy said he hopes the meetings now being held to find ways to stem economic leakage will gather ideas to present to the City Council at a later date.

Another economic leakage meeting is scheduled for Oct. 14, in the city hall conference room.