Posted on Apr 10, 2018
President Paula Brahan presided over today’s meeting. Mike Ratliff thanked Lynn Walton who gave the invocation and Sean Priebe who led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. He also reminded members to go on line and sign up as a volunteer to help with future meetings. There were no guests or visiting Rotarians.
Mike, along with a number of other Rotarians took a few minutes to remember Johnny Stevens who passed away suddenly this weekend. Johnny was a true Rotarian for the past 42 years with an almost perfect attendance record. He was a great friend and never met a stranger. Milam Cotton talked a great deal about the line between the numbers and it was noted that Johnny took every advantage to make the most out of the line between his numbers. He will be missed.
Our thanks to ADP President Chad Newell for providing our
program last Tuesday.
James Mitchell then introduced today’s guest speaker, Chad Newell. Chad serves as the President of the Area Development Partnership, a position he has held for the past nine years.
Chad noted that Hattiesburg continues to be an excellent place to live and work and our future looks even brighter.
The greater Hattiesburg area’s unemployment rate at the end of 2017 was 4.4%. It continues to improve and in February 2018 was at 3.8%. The national average is 4.1% and the state’s rate is 4/6%. The Hattiesburg area was number 1 in the state for job growth during 2017. Our market has added 5,000 new jobs in the last five years resulting in a $1.9 billion economic impact. In 2017 the Cost of Living Index for Hattiesburg was 82.7% of the national average meaning your dollars can buy 17.3% more than the average American.
Based on commuting patterns, 21,000 individuals commute into the Hattiesburg area from surrounding areas each day. Chad says that is an indication that the Hub City continues to be the Hub City for the region. There are currently 230,000 individuals living within 30 miles of the Hub City.
The housing market continues to trend upward. Chad says there were 300 new residential starts in Forrest and Lamar counties last year. Housing costs in our market are 29% below the national average.
The Forrest General Hospital and Hattiesburg Clinic complex determined last year that they have an annual economic impact of $1.4 billion on our economy. There are 9,000 healthcare employees in the Hattiesburg area.
Mississippi is becoming the number one state in the nation for green energy. Approximately $300 million has been invested recently in three, one thousand acre solar farms. In addition to the immediate economic impact of the construction, these farms will continue to generate revenue and employment as they generate electricity for the grid.
Several industrial projects were recently completed or are underway.
The new Regions complex on Highway 98 West is a $23 million dollar investment that will employ 420 employees. Of those, 91 are new jobs. The construction of the new complex will result in a number of roads and street improvements. Phase one of those improvements is a $2.2 million investment impacting Hegwood, Lincoln Road, and Lamar Blvd. These improvements are all expected to be completed within the next two years. The downtown buildings being vacated by Regions have been purchased. Additional apartment and retail space are being planned for those buildings.
The District at Midtown is a $35 million investment. When completed, the District will house a five-story hotel, a number of restaurants, South Boutique, Hancock Bank and AT&T. The complex is expected to be completely opened by this summer.
Chad says the ADP’s focus for the future is on real estate offerings and increasing the skill set of the workforce. Work continues on the Eagle One Mega Site and the goal is to have the entire complex permitted by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, saving potential developers the cost and expense. Work continues on a light industrial or shipping center complex at the Regional Airport. And, the ADP assisted Pearl River Community College in securing a $250,000 grant to expand their Industrial Electronics program.
All in all, Chad maintains that Hattiesburg offers a great quality of life and the ADP will continue to promote and sell that quality of life to potential businesses and industries.
With no other business to discuss, Paula adjourned the meeting with our motto, “Service Above Self.”