My friends Deb and Jim Fallows have a new book coming out tomorrow: Our Towns: A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America looks at cities around the country that have rebounded after devastating plant closings and the like. They came to Columbus a few years ago and have dedicated a section of the book to the Golden Triangle. One of the things they have noticed here, and in other cities that try to recover from setbacks, is the way that good leaders find new ways to look at old places.
What do you see in Mississippi that can be re-purposed? Something old that most others would reject, but that could be the foundation for something innovative and wonderful?
In East Columbus, there is this old furniture warehouse that has been sitting there for about 6 or 7 years that could be repurposed into something else. It is a very large area of land that could really be used for anything. The surrounding area would probably benefit from the new jobs that would be created because the area that it is located in is a low income part of Columbus. It would also bring industry back to Columbus. After the Yokohama tire plant was built it created a lot of job opportunities in the area that really boosted the amount of jobs in Columbus/West Point/Starkville. My 9 year old brother was talking to me about when he gets older, he wants to buy it and possibly turn it into a lego factory, something that he is very interested in doing. So maybe he’ll bring jobs back to this area.
Mississippi has the potential to be the example of moral, yet progressive. Mississippi has a set backbone or morals and ethics that don’t seem to be adjusting themselves any time soon. However, I have hope for Mississippi to be evolved by the current generation into a state that prides itself on being progressive, but not excessively so. It seems that so many states are definitively red or blue. However, America comes in different shades of purple. No state is exclusively Democratic or exclusively Republican, and I have hope that Mississippi can become an example of a formerly heavily skewed state who decides to embrace all forms opinions with representation.
Mississippi is full of places that carry the potential of being used to create something that can help the state’s economy and sense of community grow. From Pearl to Biloxi to even Columbus, there are abandoned plots of land that have been lost to time’s passing. This isn’t at the fault of Mississippians, but rather, the simple effect of a business closing due to a lack of business or a successor to the business. However, this can still make the state seem worse off. I have no doubt in my mind that these places can be re-purposed as land for schools or breakthrough businesses for the upcoming generation of soon-to-be adults in the state.
In my hometown, Meridian, there is a large unused building that used to be a mall. That building has a multitude of possible uses that are far superior to it simply taking up space. It could be revamped and repurposed as a new mall, an office building, or even a shelter for the homeless. The building come become a modern school that boosts our state from the bottom of the education barrel. If enough capital could be gathered, it could become a power hub with solar power, giving Meridian something the rest of the South still doesn’t have. This building is one of around the state, relics left behind of a forgotten time. While sentimental value is important, we must look toward the future and by improving the present. Creating jobs and providing assistance for the current residents of the state should be one of the top priorities for those holding power over the Magnolia State.
In my home town, where the 2016 census recorded 427 citizens, has many buildings and locations where attempted businesses have shut down and are now rotting away. This seems to be a recurring theme throughout our state, but it is not the only problem. Another trend I’ve noticed is that many businesses start up and after their failure, the property is used for storage or even renovated into a home. Rural areas are actually inverse urbanizing, turning their businesses and industry into homes and living areas. This, however, is not the case for established urban areas such as coastal cities, Hattiesburg, Jackson, and many others. Cities such as those are actually continuously urbanizing and expanding their bounds. The hardest part about revamping old areas for modern use is finding a way to reverse this counter-urbanization that is occurring in small, neglected areas.
Mississippi has many places that can be transformed into areas of recreation, education, or residential purposes. The lack of funding being placed towards these endeavors is appalling as they could be used to further prevent Mississippi from being viewed as a “shithole state”. The jobs created could boost the economy and in turn provide jobs for future generations of workers.