Cooperative efforts still producing good results

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 25, 2006

The deal was all but sealed when a glitch developed and theeconomic plum of the year appeared to be slipping away. If it hadnot been for the determined efforts of a team of local leaders, theWal-Mart Distribution Center’s 20th anniversary celebration lastweek would have been in another


When the announcement was made in 1985 that Lincoln County wasthe chosen site, economic development folks from across the statewere impressed with what Brookhaven had pulled off, for at thetime, its significance was comparable to that of Canton landing theNissan plant.

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Grabbing the biggest industrial plum of the year with its then600-plus jobs did not just happen; it came from a unified effort ofcity, county and local business leaders.

Similar efforts over the years brought us the Mississippi Schoolof the Arts and the new LinBrook Business Park.

Now employing almost 900 associates, as Wal-Mart likes to callthem, the economic impact on not only Lincoln County but also thesurrounding area has been tremendous. Millions upon millions ofdollars in economic impact have allowed this area to grow andprovide opportunity for new growth.

Speaking to a packed crowd at the distribution center Wednesday,former Mayor Harold Samuels told of the trip he, Bill Sones, thelate Dub Sproles and Cliff Givens took to Bentonville, Ark., tomeet with Wal-Mart officials. They finished the visit with a boxlunch with Sam Walton at Walton’s home – such was the way big dealswere closed in those days.

Only a few days earlier, all looked lost as an issue haddeveloped over moving the plant a few thousand yards north of theagreed upon spot. The only problem was the new location involvedproperty not owned by the city and county and the owner, WardFender, had little interest in selling his property – land whichhad been in his family for more than a century.

Chamber executive director Charleigh Ford had been unsuccessfulin changing Fender’s mind when Don Estes stepped in to help. It wasonly after they convinced Fender the importance of the project andthe legacy he was leaving for the area that an agreement wasreached. Twenty years later, the importance of that meeting cannotbe overstated.

Economic development projects these days are no longer sealedover box lunches with a handshake and a smile. It takes much, muchmore. The competitiveness of the business requires a well-oiledeconomic development team.

The announcement last week of a $1.1 million grant for LinBrookis a result of the hard work and efforts of our Brookhaven andLincoln County team. The foresight of these city, county andchamber officials has opened a door that will result in more jobsfor the area in the years to come.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to