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Economic signs appear positive for community

Signs of growth may not be as obvious as they once were, butlocal cash registers are ringing up more sales, and more economicdevelopment opportunities are appearing on the Brookhaven andLincoln County landscape.

As the end of the state’s fiscal year, June’s sales tax returnsprovide a good snapshot for evaluating local and area retailactivity. Since fiscal years in some municipalities may start indifferent months, the end of the state fiscal year offers anapples-to-apples comparison over the same 12-month period.

And Brookhaven’s numbers show a community that is ripening for aneconomic rebound.

While the individual June numbers saw little change from the sameperiod in 2010, the city as a whole for the entire state fiscalyear was up almost $110,000.

That may not sound like much, but percentage-wise, Brookhaven’s 2.2percent growth was tops among Southwest Mississippi’s leadingmunicipalities. Natchez managed sales tax growth of 1.1 percentwhile McComb saw an increase of around .7 percent.

Again, regionally, the cities likely aren’t lining up parades tocelebrate the extra sales tax dough. Nevertheless, the numbers doshow growth, and many faltering Mississippi municipalities wouldlove to lay claim to such a positive trend.

Thanks to some recent retail developments, Brookhaven and LincolnCounty shoppers will have new opportunities to add to the sales taxcollections.

Community leaders recently celebrated the grand opening of the newGoody’s on Brookway Boulevard. The retail space was previouslyoperated as a Stage, but the Goody’s name is a little morerecognizable and should boost interest in the business.

In the county, work has begun on Highway 550 toward construction ofa new Dollar General store. Another Dollar General is also underconstruction in the East Lincoln community.

Unlike the city, Lincoln County does not receive a portion of salestaxes generated in the county. Still, the sales made there willhelp pay salaries of employees who will hopefully spend their wageslocally and thus further help our economy.

Other building-related developments are also seeing progress.

A new mental health facility on Highway 51 appears to be on trackfor a February 2012 completion. The approximately $5 millionfacility will offer a variety of mental health services fromalcohol and drug treatment to assistance for developmentaldisabilities.

Also in the medical realm, an assisted-living facility recentlybroke ground downtown. It is awaiting a building permit once somenecessary contractor-related information is supplied to thecity.

Another project that is currently delayed – but could soon seemovement – is a motel planned for Brookway Boulevard near theinterstate. Tired of seeing only a metal framework after a coupleof years, city leaders are pushing for action, which the developersaid could restart once needed funding is secured. Another lodgingproject that is moving forward is the Inn at Whitworth, which isseeing a downtown building renovated for hotel rooms andapartments. Developer Johnny Lynch said the project, targeted forcompletion around the first of the year, will have six first-floorhotel rooms and six apartments upstairs.

The inn activity on Whitworth Avenue is the latest in a number ofdowntown renovations that will further enhance the central city’sappeal, both from a retail and residential standpoint.

While this community’s list of economic development projects maynot be long, each is significant in its own way. New businessesmean jobs for local citizens and signal developers’ confidence inthe local economy. Coupled with strengthening sales tax revenue,these brighter spots on the horizon are helping position Brookhavenand Lincoln County to capitalize on future opportunities forgrowth.