Local Leaders Say Future Looks Bright For George County Economy - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/02/04

Local Leaders Say Future Looks Bright For George County Economy

Despite losses in manufacturing jobs, employment in George County has increased at a faster rate than the state average since 2001. That's according to an economic study recently released by the University of Southern Mississippi.

Even though the county's unemployment rate of 10.2 percent remains higher than the state's unemployment rate of 6.5-percent, the county's economy is continuing to grow at a record-pace.

Nineteen-year-old Brittany Gibson has lived in George County all her life, but it was the good benefits and pay that lured her into the full-time workforce at the Wal-Mart Super Center in Lucedale.

"I could see having a career out of this, moving up," Gibson said. "There's lots of different opportunities to move up."

From 2002 to 2003, George County's employment increased 7.2-percent, while the state's employment rate increased only 2.1 percent.

Lucedale bank President Doug Luce says competitiveness within the local economy is just one of many reasons why George County's employment rate and economy are growing more quickly than other counties in the state.

"It's just a general accumulation of new people moving in," said Doug Luce, Century Bank President & CEO. 

"We're in a good location. We've got very good highways. We've got railroads. We've got schools, infrastructure, we've got job training. We've got all the things a county needs to position itself."

The county generated more than $8.5 million in sales tax revenue in 2003, with the highest sales occurring in the food and beverage, apparel and general merchandise, and automotive sectors. And county leaders are optimistic about the potential for even more economic growth, especially as Lucedale's new car dealership plans to expand.

"We're actually going to relocate on Highway 63 South," said Brandon Walker, manager of Walt Massey Automotive in Lucedale. 

"It's going to be about a 25,000 square foot facility. It's going to add about 15 or 20 jobs to the community."

As for Brittany Gibson, she's happy with the job she has, surrounded by co-workers she also calls friends.

Ground-breaking for a Holiday Inn Express, Bumpers drive-in, and Western Sizzlin' are set to happen within the next two months. These businesses are expected to open in North Lucedale within the next year, providing about 150 more jobs in the county.

by Toni Miles

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