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IDF takes pulse of the local economy

Members of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce’s Industrial Development Foundation gathered in the conference room at the Chamber Monday afternoon to discuss the latest developments in the economic health of the city and county.

IDF President Dustin Walker facilitated reports on multiple topics, each with the potential to provide jobs, increase a sense of community or in some other way benefit the county and city economically.

But what most people in attendance wanted to know was the answer to one question, voiced by Bill Jacobs: “What’s the grocery store status?”

Mayor Joe Cox and Chamber Executive Director Garrick Combs did their best to answer the question as specifically as possible, while remaining rather vague on the details. Combs spoke recently with the longtime owner of the local Piggly Wiggly stores, Glenda Rushing. Combs said Rushing told him she was in talks with a potential buyer and was confident a satisfactory deal was coming soon.

Combs and Cox said several companies of varying sizes had contacted both the city and the Chamber, expressing interest in the now-closed Piggly Wiggly locations.

While neither Combs nor the mayor were in positions to name those interested, they were encouraged that grocery retailers were continually expressing interest in the city.

The Retail Coach, a Tupelo-based firm, is continuing to work on behalf of the city and county to recruit new retailers to the area, said Combs. When a retailer has spoken with him and shared a hesitancy about the area, Combs said, it was due to the thought that there was not a big enough market in the are to sustain Walmart, Sav-A-Lot and a new grocery store, if a different retailer were to then purchase and reopen the two Piggly Wiggly locations.

“This is a pretty common story for Brookhaven,” said Chamber member Bill Sones. “They don’t think we have a strong market here, but they come in and blow it up. They do really well here.”

Other topics discussed at the IDF meeting:

• The Chamber is in the early stages of developing Lincoln Leadership, an opportunity for employees and managers of local businesses to develop their leadership skills through community-oriented classes.

• Site exploration is being conducted to find the best place for a new pad to be constructed in Linbrook Park, for the eventual development of another spec building.

• Copiah-Lincoln Community College will host an Economic Development Summit in May with several guest speakers.

• Kenny Goza of Co-Lin reported that 503 individuals had met with representatives from 62 businesses at the college’s recent job fair, a positive step toward filling the 41,738 jobs available across the state.

• Walker encouraged businesses to be preparing now for the Dixie Youth Invitational to be held in Lincoln County July 18-22. An influx of approximately 1,700 people — players, coaches, families and fans — is expected during that time, filling hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other retail establishments over the course of those five days.

“We have an opportunity to show them what Lincoln County is like, and we hope they want to come back,” he said.