Research will seek business opportunities

Published 2:15 am Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Shop Picayune committee is planning research to see what economic opportunities are needed and on those that are already available in Picayune. Some of that research has already begun.

At the most recent Shop Picayune meeting, a representative with Forrest General talked about how she will determine the kinds of medical services that are now provided and those that are needed.

Beverly Commodore, Educational Health Executive contracted with Forrest General, will speak with various sources within the city to determine the kinds of medical services are needed here.

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Commodore said she will research the types of chronic illnesses and diseases people in Picayune deal with, as well as how the local emergency room is utilized. That information will be used to determine residents’ needs and how current services can be modified to accommodate those needs.

Commodore said she will speak with pastors and other local leaders in her efforts to gather that information. Surveys will not be used because talking directly to knowledgeable people will provide more accurate results, she said.

“Our ultimate objective is to improve the quality of life for this area,” Commodore said.

The research began in September and will take about a year to complete. Commodore could not say when the information gathered would be put to use since a variety of factors will determine how fast information could be utilized.

A representative with the new Holiday Inn Express also was at the meeting. Helen Keyes said the business will hold a grand opening event at 3 p.m. Oct. 29, with food and music to follow at 5 p.m. One problem she sees with the local economy is a lack of notable restaurants. She said when visitors of the hotel ask where good restaurants are located, she suggests they drive to Slidell, La.

Leavern Guy said new businesses such as the new hotel will be crucial to the economic development of the city. While Guy said the introduction of alcohol would be an important aid to the city’s economic development, it will not be the only change needed. Other necessary improvements include bringing in nationally recognized businesses.

“We certainly need to be able to chew bubble gum and walk…,” Guy said.

Guy said the trade area, which includes residents in Picayune, it’s immediate outlying areas and the northern part of Hancock County, contains about 30,000 people. The expanded trade area, which includes Slidell and all of Pearl River County, is about 88,000. Those numbers are crucial for attracting new businesses. A new census could increase those numbers.

A mall also would benefit the city with increased businesses in a localized area. Mary Jim Weems suggested surveying areas that have malls to find out how those cities attracted them.

Guy, Picayune Main Street Manager Reba Beebe and Debbie Moore with the Minority Business Group plan to travel to a near-by growing city that recently built a mall to gather information.

Beebe suggested adding economic and other information businesses can use in making decisions to the city and to Picayune Main Street’s Web site to help attract businesses to the area. Having that information readily available would afford businesses that may be looking at Picayune a way to freely access that information.

Weems said Picayune has a great location, since it is close to other major areas but there is one problem.

“It’s like nobody knows about us,” Weems said.

Guy agreed and said that in the past it was the aim of aristocrats to keep Picayune a secret so the city wouldn’t grow.

“That hindered us for a long time,” Guy said.

Now that Picayune has a different mentality on growth, it is the time for the city to excel, Guy said.

“I think we’re a diamond in the rough still,” Beebe said.

The next Shop Picayune meeting will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 10 at the Picayune Train Depot on U.S. 11.