Virus no obstacle in Copiah economy
Copiah County Economic Development District (CCEDD) Executive Director Arthur Lee (Pokey) Evans, Jr., says the COVID-19 pandemic may have slowed business, but there's still a lot of business to be had locally and companies are looking to capitalize on opportunities in the area even as people seek to avoid contact with the virus.
"I see it as a consumer, shopping locally," says Evans. "Local retail stores are teeming with customers who have curtailed travel, but still want and need to do business. If people are learning about where they can shop locally and continue to utilize local sources that create jobs and generate tax revenues to boost the economy of our villages, towns and cities, it's a very good thing coming out of the pandemic circumstances."
Evans is seeing it on the job, too, which he sees as "making sure that the people of Copiah County have jobs and can put food on the table for their families," in the final analysis.
He won't talk about it much, but Evans is currently involved in trying to convince a new employer to establish operations in Copiah County.
"The Mississippi Development Authority introduced us along with several other economic developers to a company, which we are pursuing," Evans relates. "It's competitive, but businesses are looking for opportunities."
Evans is a little more talkative about another company that has purchased the long-deserted facility near the Hazlehurst South Interstate 55 exit where Cherry Bark once produced hardwood flooring. Encore Group LLC, an offshore oilfield food catering service based in Houma, Louisiana, is planning to open Duct Fab, a subsidiary company, to fabricate commercial and residential air conditioning ductwork at the site.
"We're renovating the facility and doing strategic planning around the expansion beyond our oilfield-focused operations," says Encore's Myron Lopez. "We're looking to open possibly in mid-March."
A wood pellet manufacturer that planned to open operations in Copiah County a few years ago continues to await favorable market conditions, but remains positive about its opportunity, Evans reports.
Overall, Evans says, Copiah County businesses have weathered the pandemic storm well, with no major layoffs or troubles.
"It has pretty much been business as usual," he says. "Premier Transportation had some initial problems, but its trucks are moving again." Steel Outdoors in Wesson is also expanding its product line.
During 2021, CCEDD will be using an updated, more user-friendly web site (www.copiahworks.com) as its major economic development marketing tool.
"The web is the initial point-of-contact with potential new businesses in economic development," notes Evans. "Rarely do site visits occur until you are well in the process."
In selling Copiah County to business, the CCEDD web site emphasizes:
A workforce that is willing and ready to serve employers;
A location near key markets with rail, interstate, air and nearby water access;
Government officials who understand business needs, provide incentives, and facilitate location;
Available land that is well-priced
CCEDD offices are now located at the Robert Johnson Blues Museum on Marion Avenue at Crystal Springs. Contact Evans at 601-421-1249.