Local leaders focused on economy

Published 7:00 am Thursday, August 9, 2018

Several businesses have closed in Picayune over the past year, sparking concerns from citizens about the local economy.

Pearl River County Administrator Adrian Lumpkin said the County is starting a new economic development council that will work to bring in new business and industry. A director for the council will be recruited soon. The director’s job will be to contact businesses, attend national trade centers and events, network and raise awareness about the county and what it has to offer. He said this individual will conduct research to find businesses that would be a good fit for the county. No one is currently performing those tasks within the county, Lumpkin said.

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Lumpkin said the council will also work to retain businesses already in the area.

Pearl River County Supervisor Hudson Holliday said he hopes the county can expand the local HubZone, which would allow businesses within that zone to have preferential access to government contracts. 

In Poplarville, Holliday said steps are being taken to improve development. Besides construction of City Square Park, a county courthouse annex is also being built in the county seat, which Holliday hopes will revitalize the city’s downtown. He said small cities often struggle to keep their downtown alive. Holliday said he hopes the introduction of the new location of Ramey’s will help.

Holliday said creation of a positive environment in Poplarville could encourage people to move to the area.

“One thing we can do is work to create an environment people want to live in. Clean parks, low taxes, good schools – we have that in Poplarville,” Holliday said.

Poplarville Board of Aldermen member Tony Smith said funds are being set aside for street and drainage improvements. Smith hopes the improvements will help the city’s image. While City Square Park will be beneficial to businesses downtown, he said that more needs to be done for businesses on Highways 26 and 53.

Although the city is doing a lot of work on infrastructure, city leaders have made efforts to not increase taxes. Smith said lower taxes often attract people looking to move to a new area and open a business. He said the fact that Pearl River Community College offers workforce training classes is beneficial and provides value to the city. 

Smith says focus should be put toward expanding the population and investing in younger generations.

In Picayune, City Manager Jim Luke said that even though city leaders hate to see a business leave, more businesses have come in to replace those lost.

“We lose some and we gain some. We continuously work towards bringing new businesses in,” Luke said.

Luke said Shale Support LLC and Huey P. Stockstill, LLC are both growing and expanding their employee base.

Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero Jr. said the city of Picayune is working hand-in-hand with the County’s new economic development council and with existing industries to help boost the local economy.

Since Shale Support and Huey P. Stockstill offer higher wages than some of the national chains that recently closed, these businesses are more appealing to workers, he said. Since those businesses offer high and low skill jobs, there is something for almost anyone, he said.

Pinero said the city is also working closely with PRCC to ensure the college provides specialized training that these local industries can employ.

Pinero pointed out that the businesses that recently closed were national chains, which may not have had a strong foundation. He said the closing of those businesses is not a reflection on Picayune, Pearl River County and the local businesses.