Edwards urges Hancock and Pearl River Counties to work together

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hancock County and Pearl River County need to work together to establish greater economic development, according to Ashley Edwards the Chief Executive Officer of the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission.

Edwards cited the lack of collaboration between Hancock and Pearl River Counties as one of the biggest reasons they haven’t been able to secure a large industry site near the Stennis Space Center.

Edwards spoke Friday to the Picayune Chamber of Commerce about ways Pearl River County can move forward economically.

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Beth Lenoir, board president of the Picayune Chamber of Commerce, said she attended a Partners for Stennis meeting a couple of months ago at Lockheed Martin where Edwards spoke.

“I heard Ashley speak. I really appreciated what he had to say and his ideas and I have been trying to get him over here since then to talk to our members,” Lenoir said.

Edwards focused his talk on how regionalism is key to developing the local economy.

“When you look at Columbus, when you look at Tupelo, when you look at the greater Jackson area you don’t see individual communities that are all competing with each other for limited resources. You see regional thinking. You see communities and counties that have come together and said let’s pool our resources and let’s go after the bigger pieces of the pie rather than what we’re getting today individually,” Edwards said.

Edwards will be taking a new job at as the president of the Gulf Coast Business Council that focuses on six counties, including Hancock and Pearl River. He said he was excited to take on this new position because of the regional possibilities it presents for growth.

The most valuable dollars Pearl River County should focus on are those not already circulating through the county, but coming from outside that wouldn’t already be here. That is referred to as the base sector economy, Edwards said.

“For example, if I locate a hundred-job industrial manufacturing facility in an industrial park, then all of the money, the goods and services that are sold are primarily going to customers who are not inside Pearl River County. The payroll money is probably coming from those customers and economic activity and sales that are occurring nationwide or worldwide. So all that new money that percolates into Pearl River County didn’t originate here—and those are the most valuable dollars that you have because those are the dollars that you can’t easily duplicate,” Edwards said.

This is opposed to building new restaurants and retail stores in Pearl River County, which may take away business from the already existing businesses, Edwards said. He advocates that working together regionally to bring in a big company, which provides jobs and accumulates profits from outside the county and the state, is the key to growing the local economy.