Mississippi County On The Fast Track To Economic Growth

January 10, 2005 – Posted at 4:52 p.m. CST

MISSISSIPPI COUNTY -- Residents of Mississippi County have taxed themselves for a full year now. It was all a part of a bigger plan to stimulate economic growth, and now local leaders are calling the plan a success. Over the years, Mississippi County suffered from several plant closings.

"Manufacturing in the United States is under tremendous pressure from over seas," said Clifton Chitwood of the Great River Economic Foundation.

And that fact pushed economic developers in Mississippi County to start beefing up incentives, or in layman's terms, more taxes.

"They passed an economic development sales tax which is raising over two million dollars a year," said Chitwood, "Our thinking was if we could offer a more appealing choice."

And so far it seems to be working. Existing business are also able to take advantage of incentives. Mississippi County is the second largest steel-producing county in the U.S. Existing steel companies like Blytheville Plate Metal and JMS processing are planning on expanding over the next couple of years. Together they will add 70 jobs.

"Under this new system we've been very successful," said Chitwood.

In fact Chitwood says they are coming into 2005 with about two million dollars in their economic development fund.

"If the projects we're working on now come through all of that money would be gone and that's a good thing," said Chitwood.

And it seems that the half-cent sales tax was also a good thing. It almost didn't happen; voters were split on the decision.

"It was a narrow victory," said Chitwood.

Chitwood also says that a new steel plant is in the works. As of right now it looks as if the plant will employee about 40 people.