Bright spots evident in community

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

“People here just do not understand how good it is inBrookhaven,” the fellow told me.

We were chatting about the current economic concerns and itsaffect on our community. His family moved to town several years agoafter living in other parts of the state. The decision to move washappenstance. Looking to make a change, they came across a brochureon the Mississippi School of the Arts. The ambiance of thecommunity, its strengths and uniqueness closed the sale.

A few days before that conversation, I had given myself theChamber of Commerce tour – taking a look at our community as avisitor might see us.

Beginning at the welcome sign on Brookway Boulevard headingtoward downtown, I took notice of the new construction of ashopping center and a new bank mixed in between the cardealerships, restaurants and other commercial retail establishmentsthat line our main artery.

“Impressive,” I thought to myself. “Commercial construction inthese days is rare.”

Heading north on Highway 51, I passed more commercial retailareas. I made note of the ongoing construction at King’s DaughtersMedical Center – a $12 million renovation project that includes anew intensive care unit, a new emergency room facility and updatedand remodeled rooms.

Behind the hospital, I came upon the construction of the newpediatric care facilities – an impressive building that isscheduled to open in the spring of 2009 to provide health care forthe youngest of our local citizens.

Economic downturn? In only the first few minutes of my tour, Ihad seen evidence of millions of dollars being spent on commercialconstruction, showing a community investing in its future.

I drove past the relatively new mental health and the JuvenileRehabilitation Center operated by the State of Mississippi. Bothare regional facilities that provide a public service along withlocal jobs for people across Southwest Mississippi. Both representmillions invested in our community in recent years.

Onward I drove to the industrial park north of town were Delphi,McLane-Southern, Wal-Mart, Columbus Lumber and others are located.All are distribution and manufacturing facilities that provideseveral thousand jobs in this area and are the backbone of oureconomic success.

Heading back toward the center of town, I came upon our downtownarea.

“How many communities in Mississippi can you find that areattracting young professionals to live in downtown apartments,” Ithought to myself.

Local investors have pumped tens of thousands of dollars intoour local economy, renovating buildings mixing commercial groundfloors with residential apartments upstairs. At night you can seepeople walking the streets, see the glow of the lights at the newlyrestored front of the Haven Theater and hear the chatter ofresidents enjoying their balconies – a small bit of urban livingright here in rural Mississippi.

The crown jewel of downtown, of course, is the old Whitworthcampus, now the home of the Mississippi School of the Arts – aproject that again shows the vision and foresight of localcommunity leaders. Our area receives exposure from across the statefrom the best and brightest in the visual and performing arts. Thesky is the limit on what such exposure can bring in the years tocome as these students venture out into the world and make theirmark.

My tour took me along South Jackson and Natchez Avenue to seethe stately homes that line the streets, then up into the newersubdivisions south of town where again I found several houses underconstruction – more investment.

I ended the tour at the new LinBrook Business Park underneaththe new water tower where infrastructure work is in full process.The 400-plus acre park is the largest such industrial developmentfacility south of Interstate 20 and sets this community in apositive position once the national economy settles down.

My hour-long tour showed a bright spot shining out from thegloom and doom the national media portrays. My friend’s assessmentis correct, “We don’t realize how good Brookhaven is.”

Sure we have some problems, but we also have some greatopportunities.

We close out 2008 later this week and look forward to 2009 withhope. While the national economic picture is uncertain, my tourshowed me that as a community we could have confidence, that we areweathering the storm and will be in a position to take advantage ofthe good times ahead.

Have a Happy New Year!

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