By Mike Robertson

Kemper County Messenger

According to Kemper County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Craig Hitt, 2017 has been a successful year with job expansion at Emilia and Nokomus and the addition of new manufacturer Landscapers Pride. Emilia is also looking at the possibility of a building expansion due to brining in new product lines.

“I would definitely say that it was a successful year for Kemper County," Hitt said. "We were able to grow some existing businesses such as Emilia and Nokomus. We were successful in those two companies creating new jobs. And, of course, the Landscapers Pride project — we were successful in getting them in Kemper County.” Landscapers Pride currently employs about 10 people with the possibility of increasing that to 15-20.

Hitt said they are continuing work with Mississippi Prison Industries who still indicate their intention to locate a facility in Kemper County. Hitt said that he spoke with a representative from the company within the past two weeks, and the indication is that they are closer to doing something in the county.

The Kemper Crossing project at the intersection of Hwy. 16 and Hwy. 397 has been another big step forward in the economic development of Kemper County. A 50-acre area has already been cleared and the process of leveling and constructing access roads is underway. The site will be available for both manufacturing and retail businesses. Hitt added that the county owns a total of 215 acres in the area so there is plenty of room for expansion.

Concerning Kemper Crossing Hitt said, “We’re still several months away, but we are getting some interest. Obviously, the activity is getting interest for us.”

Hitt said the county is now in the process of purchasing a 27-acre site on Hwy. 45 just south of Scooba, — the old Weyerhauser wood yard site. Hitt said he feels this will give them the opportunity for new manufacturing in the Scooba area.

The Economic Development Authority is also involved in helping those interested in retail growth or relocation. Examples would be the opening of Dollar General in Scooba and the relocation of the Dollar General in DeKalb. Hitt also indicated the possibility of a Dollar General Store coming to the Preston area in the near future.

Not all of the economic news was good. Due do the situation at North American Coal and Mississippi Power, an anticipated 500 permanent jobs has dropped to around 50. Hitt said this was a big blow not only to Kemper County, but to the region in general.

However, he added, “I feel more confident today than I did six months ago that we will have more than 50 full-time jobs out there, in the future.”

Hitt stated that Kemper County offers several advantages in economic development, one being that it is a rural county, and many manufacturers are looking to locate away from towns and residences.

The rail system and Hwy. 45 and Hwy. 16 are also big advantages. And the location of the EMCC home campus in Scooba is a huge benefit as well.