WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - It is a large discount store, a popular community center and an economic engine for Stone County. The Walmart in Wiggins hosted a grand re-opening Friday morning to celebrate the completion of a major remodeling project.
The store is not only the largest sales producer in the city, it also continues to spark economic development nearby.
Wiggins Mayor Jerry Alexander got the ribbon-cutting crowd laughing with his remarks. The former Walmart employee recalled an earlier day.
"Me and Mayor Hatten remember when this was a big field. We used to run rabbits and smoke rabbit tobacco out here. And look at it now!" exclaimed the mayor.
That former field is now home to a retailer that provides more than 200 jobs and is the largest sales tax producer in Wiggins.
As community leaders gathered to celebrate the remodeling of this store, they could see the economic development it continues to attract.
"You've got a new bank being built, a new hotel just opened. You've got a shopping center being built right now. Just look around what Walmart has brought to Wiggins, Mississippi," said Mayor Alexander.
"Good morning! Let me give you a map showing you where everything is located," said a smiling Maxine Hickman.
She is a greeter who welcomes shoppers to the newly remodeled store.
"We already have a good, solid economy. This helps it to be even stronger. And the investment that was made in expanding this Walmart and doing the remodel says a lot about Walmart's commitment to Stone County. And we think that's a positive thing," said Jay Paul Gumm with the Stone County Economic Development Partnership.
Also positive is the support this Wiggins Walmart provides its neighbors. Store manager Gary Jones proudly presented checks to several community organizations, including Special Olympics.
"We give back to the community every year. We've got a grant budget and then we do special fund raisers like the food bank. We try to support the local food bank, they're our special project," said Jones.
The Mayor of Wiggins is among the store's biggest fans.
"I go way back with Walmart. I used to be an employee with Walmart and was working here when I got elected mayor, so I've got some good feelings here at this store," he said.
The mayor suggested keeping the ceremony short, telling the crowd, "we've gotta get those registers going to get that sales tax flowing".