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Economic development badly needed

By Leavern Guy

Guest Columnist 

If you have traveled seven minutes outside of Pearl River County over the past three years down interstate 59 South to the City of Pearl River, La., I’m sure you have noticed two major distribution centers i.e. Rooms to Go’s 850,000 square foot building and Associated Wholesale Grocers’ 720,000 square foot building.

Every time I pass by I’m thinking, “Why not Pearl River County.”

It was not because of the population of the two cities, Picayune, Miss., and Pearl River, La. Our city, the city of Picayune, which happens to be next door to Pearl River, La., has a population of approximately 11,000; the city of Pearl River, La., has a population 2,550.

It was not because of location or logistics because both areas are in great proximity to transportation and shipping : the same three major interstates of I-59, I-12 and I-10; three major ports, the Port of New Orleans , Port of Gulfport and not to mention the Port of Pascagoula; and our access to railroad transportation. Both areas — Pearl River County and Pearl River La. — had access to the GO Zone bonds following Hurricane katrina, which, with a total of $150 million, was used to help build both the Rooms To Go and the Associated Wholesale Grocers buildings. A little humor — both names are Pearl River. LOL.

So what is the answer? I don’t know. However it is necessary to find out the answer to the question, “Why not Pearl River County.”

Economic development should always be one of the top priorities of any local or state government, and not what party you belong to. It should always be about the people and not the party. Mississippi politicians spend too much time trying to “ make the President fail” while other states continue to advance economically. This is a Republican-controlled state, which I respect. However, our state still remains on the bottom. For example: For median income, Mississippi is ranked last, 51st. In education, we rank 49th. For the percentage of children below the poverty level, we rank 2nd out of 50 States and the District of Columbia. For the percentage of people age 65 and older below the poverty level, the state ranks number one.

I can go on and on about these negatives but how do we fix it — economic development.

Associated Wholesale Grocers by itself will bring a $20 million payroll to the city of Pearl River, La., not to mention the 300 jobs. Rooms To Go employs another 300 people with millions of dollars in payroll. Imagine the economic impact and spin-off businesses that this will bring.