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Pike County Economic Development District

Busby Outlines Development Goals

Local Business Owners Will Bring the Biggest Impact

Matt Williamson - Enterprise Journal

 

Busby’s speech to the McComb Exchange Club covered a lot of topics, but perhaps the one that resonated the most is her belief that mega-factories sitting on mega-sites aren’t going to come in and save Pike County’s economy.

If anything, Pike Countians have more of a role in determining the area’s economic destiny.

Growing existing businesses and attracting new  businesses that complement the local work force and take advantage of its interstate and rail connectivity are a more realistic goal, she said.

“Sixty-three percent of economic development in Mississippi in 2015-16 was based on expansion, not new businesses,” she said.

The man behind one example of that was Exchange Club member John Westbrook, the owner of Gigantic Bag and J&D Warehouse.

He opened the plastics plant and a warehousing operation in unoccupied industrial space in Summit about a year ago and has been growing clientele and payrolls ever since.

“We employ 33 right now,” Westbrook said.

Busby said workforce capability is the top priority for businesses looking to move into a new area, and with that, she’s looking at getting ACT Work Ready Community certification for Pike, Amite, Walthall and Wilkinson counties. The program gives a snapshot of the local workforce’s competency in math, graphic literacy and other factors.

“I can tell (prospective employers) that we have an educated workforce all day long, but I can show them that we have an educated workforce” with the certification, she said.

Busby’s goal is to bring in good-paying, head-of-household jobs, which she believes will make a more meaningful impact on the economy, but she acknowledged that’s only going to happen if the workforce is capable of meeting the demands of employers.

“I would rather bring 25 high-paying jobs than 250 low-paying jobs,” she said. “It’s about improving the well-being and quality of life for everyone living here, too.”

The type of jobs that do come can go a long way in creating indirect jobs, she said.

Busby said job market experts claim the addition of 100 service jobs will create 23 indirect jobs, while 100 new manufacturing jobs can lead to 79 others.

Busby said residents and officials can do a lot for the economic development effort by talking up the area, taking care of their properties and taking action against blight.

If someone has a negative perception of the area, then “you want to change the perception that people have of you, but we also want to work on the perception of our community from the inside,” she said. “That’s where I need everyone’s help.”

Busby, a Pike County native, said that when traveling through the state she meets a lot of people who have connections to that area and they tend to speak favorably of it.

She noted that land development is a big part of her job as well, and said Gateway was a good investment, even if it takes time to grow. Without it, Pike County is already knocked out of consideration for most projects, she said.

“When you have people come to town and you don’t have anything to show them, you’re cutting yourself out of a project immediately,” Busby said, adding that businesses “don’t want to wait two years for you to clear land and trees.”

While Pike County has new industrial park land, there’s a dearth of existing industrial facilities like the ones Westbrook moved into.

“We don’t have a lot of those buildings anymore so we have to talk about building new ones or acquiring more,” Busby said.

Overall, Busby said Pike County is in good shape.

“Our unemployment rate for Pike County is the lowest it’s been since 2001. ... With the oil and gas market where it is for it to go down to 5 percent in the past couple of years, that’s great,” she said.

Westbrook said the work the economic development district does for new businesses can be essential to seeing them open at all.

“I thank their department and everything Jill has done on Day 1 for this,” he said, adding that the office helped gather information on tax credits, infrastructure and other issues.

“I really give y’all credit and thank economic development because you all have done an outstanding job,” he said.

Doing the research and legwork for businesses looking to grow here is just part of the job, Busby said.

“I try to jump through all of those hoops for them,” she said.

 

 

More Upgrades Coming To Park

$2 Million Worth of Campsite Renovations Expected at Percy Quin

Matt Williamson - Enterprise Journal

 

Millions of dollars have been pumped into improvements at Percy Quin State Park over the past five years, and at least a couple million more are coming in the form of campsite upgrades.

Park manager Will Busby told the McComb Exchange Club on Thursday that plans call for “state-of-the-art” campsite renovations and improvements to the outdated park lodge.

“I’m talking about a couple of a million dollars,” Busby said of the scope of the campsite project, which will include installing larger concrete pad and new water, power and sewer hookups.

The park system plans to seek bids for the work in August, which could mean an October start date.

Busby said he hopes to start with campsite upgrades on the south side of the park since it’s the largest and most popular camping area at Percy Quin.

“The south side is the biggest side. Get it done in the winter months,” he said. “Campers who use it are going to love it. It’s going to be brand new. It’s going to be really nice.”

Busby said the park’s lodge will get a new roof, office and bathrooms, along with new furniture and flooring — if there’s enough money left.

The latest upgrades proposed for the park follow a lot of work and millions more spent there, Busby said.

Park officials had planned on draining Lake Tangipahoa to repair the dam and spillway, but Hurricane Isaac sped up those plans when the August 2012 storm inundated the structure, causing it to slough off. The park went into crisis mode, closing all access to the lake while crews rebuilt the dam. The lake reopened to fishing in September 2016.

The dam repairs represent the bulk of state and federal funds spent at the park.

“Since Isaac, the one that tore the dam up, we spent $6 million for that,”  Busby said. “But all of the renovations hat we’ve done recently, it’s got to be close to $10 million” spent at Percy Quin since 2012.

He noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided some of the funding for dam repairs, but only to restore 1950s-era the structure to its original design, and newer standards required it to be built back even bigger, causing even more funds to be spent.

Hurricanes haven’t been the only thing to beset the park with problems in recent years. In that same time span, Quail Hollow Golf Course has had two battles with nematodes that have wreaked havoc on the greens, but that problem has been dealt with, Busby said.

“I played three weeks ago, and it’s as nice as it’s ever been,” he said.

Busby said now that the issues with the lake and the golf course have been resolved, the park is in good shape.

“Just so everybody knows, the park is back up and running and we’re at full-bore go,” he said.

Busby said fishing is “sporadic.”

“It was good when it first opened ... and then (fish) figured out what a lure is,” he said.

Busby said one fisherman recently caught a 30-pound catfish, which had been unheard-of at the park.

Besides catfish, the lake had been restocked with 55,000 crappie, 40,000 bluegill and 24,000 Florida bass.

“If you come around the full moon, you can fish right on the bank and you’ll catch some bluegill,” Busby said. “I caught 130 the last full moon.”

He said grass and willow trees sprouted up in the lake bed before the lake filled up with water after the dam repairs, but that situation is resolving itself with high water killing the grass. The willows, which he said are great for fishing but bad for skiers, also are starting to die off.

“We did manage to get 200 acres of the lake buoyed off for skiing,” Busby said.

Since Percy Quin is one of the more profitable parks in Mississippi’s state parks system, Busby said the state has been good about investing money in it.

“It’s one of the bigger parks. It’s one of the money-making parks,” he said.

The park has 27 cabins, two golf villas, a 200-seat convention center, pavilions, a group camp, swimming pools and a day-use area. With cabins renting for $65 to $100 a night and golf villas capable of sleeping 12 people for $360 a night, lodging at the park is an exceptional deal, Busby said.

“We did $1.2 million. That’s a lot of rentals,” he said. “That’s a lot of overnight rentals. Of course, it costs about $1 million to run it.”

“The group camp is doing really well,” he said, noting that the McComb Junior Auxiliary just wrapped up another successful Camp Sunshine for developmentally disabled residents. Also, football and church camps have standing reservations.

“We get a lot of repeat customers because it’s such a nice place,” Busby said.

Percy Quin is a special place for Busby, but not just because it’s his job to maintain it. He went to work at the park as a ranger in 1992 and has lived on the grounds ever since.

“I raised my kids in the park,” said Busby, who has been park manager since 2005.

“It’s been a great career. I can kind of see the end of it. I’m only 54 years old, so I can’t leave just yet.”

 

 

Pike County Certifying Workforce

 

Pike County, along with Amite, Walthall, and Wilkinson Counties, is currently undergoing the process of being designated as an ACT Work Ready Community. The ACT Work Ready Community is a designation earned by counties who work with ACT to close the labor skills gap within their communities. Participating counties must go through a yearlong implementation process in which county leaders attend four academies facilitated by the ACT. As a part of the program, each individual county is given goals by the ACT to obtain, as well as to maintain, their certification status as a Work Ready Community. Upon completion of the four ACT academies, counties have two years to meet their goals provided by ACT.

The ACT Work Ready system relies on the ACT WorkKeys assessment, which is a three-part examination which tests applied mathematics, reading, and locating information. Local workforce participants take the WorkKeys assessment and, upon completion, are awarded the National Career Ready Certificate, better known as the NCRC.

Amite, Pike, Walthall, and Wilkinson Counties will be attending the third of the four required ACT academies in the month of September.

Testimonials & Facts

  • McComb Coca-Cola Bottling Company, a division of Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc., was founded in 1907. McComb Coca-Cola products are distributed under exclusive franchise agreements with The Coca-Cola Company and other beverage franchise companies in the greater McComb area. McComb Coca-Cola distributes…

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  • Loblolly pines and stately magnolia trees, rolling hills, spectacular wildlife, and seasonal flowers await visitors at Percy Quin State Park. One of the original state parks cleared and constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Percy Quin is…

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  • Glover Freeman Quin Jr., born January 15, 1986 is an American football safety for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League. He played college football at New Mexico and Southwest Mississippi Community College, and was drafted by the Houston Texans in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

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  • Fabricated Pipe is a pipe fabrication company that has established a reputation for meeting clients’ needs by delivering quality services in a timely manner. With fabrication facilities in both Fernwood, Mississippi and Baton Rouge, Louisiana and a home office in Baton…

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  • Based on over 47 combined years of experience in the plastics and packaging industries, Gigantic Bag leverages a vast network of companies, relationships, and understanding to facilitate delivering the highest quality polyethylene bags at the best price with unsurpassed customer…

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  • Brown Bottling Group, established in Mississippi since 1971, is a franchise distributor for Pepsi Cola and Dr Pepper Beverages representing the top-selling products in virtually every category of the beverage industry covering soft drinks, juices, sport drinks, water, coffee and…

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  • Over the last 30 years, Pike County's Val Deer has mastered thatch architecture and has become a purveyor of rare and exotic woods. His work can be found at Disneyworld, London's Parliament Building and in celebrity homes such as Gloria Estefan,…

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  • La'Porsha Renae Jennings (born August 1, 1993) is an American singer from McComb, Mississippi. In 2015, she auditioned for the fifteenth and final season of American Idol. On April 7, 2016, she finished as runner-up on the show, behind winner Trent Harmon.

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  • Norwood was born on February 11, 1979, in McComb, Mississippi, the daughter of Willie Norwood, a former gospel singer and choir director, and his wife, Sonja Norwood. She is the older sister of entertainer Ray J, as well as a cousin of rapper Snoop Dogg. Raised in a Christian home,…

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  • Born and raised in McComb, Mississippi, Dyson attended McComb High School, where he starred in baseball and footballas a running back. At McComb, Dyson earned All-Division honors but was passed over by most scouts due to his slight stature. Dyson later attended Southwest Mississippi Community…

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  • Acclaimed as a founder of rock 'n' roll, Bo Diddley (Ellas Bates McDaniel) was born near Magnolia, south of McComb, on December 30, 1928. Diddley wrote and recorded such hits as “I’m a Man,” “Bo Diddley,” “Say Man,” and “Road…

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  • William Ray Norwood Jr. was born in McComb, Mississippi to Willie Norwood and Sonja Bates-Norwood. His older sister Brandy is an award-winning, multi-platinum recording artist. Early in his life, he moved with his family from McComb, Mississippi to Los Angeles, California, and in 1989 started appearing in television commercials for…

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  • Headquartered in Atlanta, Aaron's, Inc. (NYSE: AAN), a leading omnichannel provider of lease-purchase solutions was founded in 1955, has been publicly traded since 1982, and owns the Aarons, Progressive Leasing and HELPcard brands. Aaron’s engages in the sales and lease…

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  • Britney Spears was born on December 2, 1981, in McComb, Mississippi. She starred in The All-New Mickey Mouse Club at age 11, and began a highly successful career as a pop singer and performer with the release of the single…

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  • Sanderson Farms® is one of the nation’s leading food corporations, with annual sales of more than $2.8 billion and a weekly processing capacity of 10.625 million chickens per week. By relying on organic growth rather than acquisition, Sanderson Farms has…

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  • Over fifty years ago, Croft moved its operations from Jamestown, New York to McComb, Mississippi. This move proved vital to Croft capturing and capitalizing on the window and door market. Today, they are one of the largest window and door suppliers in…

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  • Established in 1994, Summit Plastics has become a major provider of a large variety of custom polyethylene film and bags. With an annual capacity of over 28 million pounds, Summit Plastics can handle the needs of large customers. Summit Plastics…

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  • Weyerhaeuser Company began more than 100 years ago with 900,000 acres of timberland, three employees and a small office in Tacoma, Washington. Founded in 1900 by Frederick Weyerhaeuser, they grew to become one of the largest sustainable forest products companies…

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  • Fernwood Country Club has a storied and rich tradition dating back to 1924. Several generations have enjoyed recreation and fellowship and created memories at this historic Mississippi club. We are very proud of the improvements they have achieved in recent…

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  • Dixie Packaging, Inc. specializes in custom manufactured low-density polyethylene products.  For over 20 years Dixie has worked closely with their customers to help them determine their specific packaging needs. Whether it be bags, sheeting or tubing, Dixie products provide the…

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Pike County Economic Development District
Mailing address: PO Box 5302, Summit, MS 39666
Physical address: Southwest Mississippi Community College, 1156 College Drive, Summit, MS 39666