WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - Wiggins city and business leaders said long awaited construction on Highway 49 is a shining example of how the city is starting to come out of an economic downturn. For years, there has been talk of grand plans to develop property across from Walmart, but nothing ever came of it until now.
After years of economic downturn, commercial development is finally moving forward on land on Highway 49. The property changed hands several times in recent years among out of state developers then a year ago Wiggins-based Alexander and Associates took a chance and bought 121 acres.
"It's really uncomfortable to buy when things are going down," said Brad Alexander. "It's contrary to what you would think is common sense. A lot of people of people are scared and won't capitalize on those opportunities, but those who do tend to do well."
The first project on tap is a 7,400 square foot strip mall. The developer has also sold a parcel to a company slated to start construction next year.
"Now I think our economy is picking back up," Mayor Joel Miles said. "We're awful glad to see the dirt turning on the west side of Highway 49 across from Walmart. It's local folks that own that and I feel they're going to push harder for local development than someone who is not from the area."
Wiggins leaders said with a budget that depends mostly on sales tax collections, they are happy to know there are big plans down the road.
"We're going to have, hopefully, a good mix of commercial uses," said Alexander. "Anything from retail, office space, possibly some medical things and, of course, some restaurants right there on the frontage road."
Mayor Miles said, "I think the grand scope of things it's going to be a huge development before it's over with. You've got to start somewhere and to see anything over there and if it's several small ones and it works, then that's great."
The developer said the new strip mall should be move in ready in January and already several tenants have reserved space. With new businesses often comes new jobs. Wiggins leaders said most people who live in Stone County work elsewhere and they want to change that.
Stone County Economic Development Director Mike Turner said, "Our primary focus is with the creation of additional jobs in this county and also to increase the tax base and the revenue that comes to this county. The best way to do that is through jobs."