Nearby Businesses Will Suffer If WorldCom Falls

Business couldn't be better for "The Olive Branch" gift shop. It opened last November within a mile of WorldCom. Owners hoped to attract nearby WorldCom employees as customers.

"Of course, we had that in mind. Location, location, location," co-owner Bettye Edwards said. "We didn't know they had dishonest people."

Edwards says more than 50 percent of her business comes from WorldCom workers, and if they leave, her business will likely wither and die.

"It will be highly effected."

Other local businesses agree. But Dr. Bob Neal, a senior economist for the Institutions of Higher Learning, is more optimistic. He estimates that 650 to 700 WorldCom employees in Canton will lose their jobs as early as Friday. That's only a small percentage of the state's total workforce.

"In the overall scheme of things, I don't believe it's going to have a noticeable impact on Mississippi's economy," Neal said.

The biggest impact of the WorldCom troubles may be on investors. Many say they have held on to their stock because they had faith in former CEO Bernie Ebbers and other executives who promised to bring the company out of its financial fall. Now that hope has faded.

"This one other thing is like icing on the cake," Charles Rodgers said. "I don't think anybody's going to have any confidence in what they've told us in the past."