It may be time to evaluate our position regarding alcohol sales
To all my friends and neighbors in Simpson County,
In past months, there has been some intermittent discussion, some newspaper articles and a random petition, aimed at getting enough signatures and support to justify getting alcohol sales in our county. There has been pretty even distribution in several areas, between those who would like to see alcohol sold locally, and those who don't. But I don't believe that anyone has ever openly discussed some of the reasons why it's become increasingly important for us to put this measure into place.
First of all, I'm doing this because I love this area, and I'm wanting to see Mendenhall, and the entire county, move forward into the future and new business growth in the area, which will bring increased tax revenue to our city, allowing us to fix our streets, keep the cities clean, improve public areas and just not have to be putting things off or not being able to provide needed items or services to keep our cities vibrant and healthy.
As a nearly 20 year resident and two-term Alderman for the City of Mendenhall, I've had the opportunity to serve under 3 different mayors, to go to various seminars and classes, and to attend yearly municipality-related conferences. All 3 of the mayors have shared stories of industries or restaurants calling or coming into town, inquiring about bringing their business to Mendenhall. I'm sure Mayor Clyde or Mayor Berry have probably had similar encounters. But invariably, one of the very first questions they ask is "Do you have alcohol sales?" And when you say you don't, they say they'll move on down the road. I don't have the reasoning behind this; but it's something almost universal for businesses relocating to other areas of the state or country. I asked a business friend of mine in Atlanta about it recently, and he said, "It's just a fact of life, today; if you don't have alcohol sales, you don't have growth."
About 3 years ago, I was able to take part in a meeting that illustrates my point. Many area municipal officials attended a seminar at Co-Lin, where the Economic Development people from Jackson told us about a proposed "Medical Corridor", that would extend along a 5 mile wide strip from Florence to Hattiesburg. It would come in the next 10 to 15 years, and include any types of business, related to the medical profession. You can imagine the growth, financial prosperity, job development, etc. that could come along with this. About a year and a half ago, I became curious as to how this project was evolving. Somehow, it had been moved....sadly; to the I-20 area, between Jackson and Clinton. We can all come to conclusions as to why; but I believe it’s in big part because Rankin, Simpson, and most of Covington counties do not have alcohol sales. Hinds County does.
I'm not in any way advocating that anyone drink alcohol, that doesn't want to. Many are very much against it, for various reasons; and I fully understand that. But, I also believe it is a choice, we should be allowed to make on our own.....like whether or not to smoke cigarettes, or whether or not to otherwise put our health in danger by eating too much, or the wrong types of food. Having a package store in the neighborhood doesn't mean that everyone in the town is going to rush out and become an alcoholic. But is does mean that many good and prosperous business opportunities are bypassing our communities, taking growth and prosperity through increased tax revenue elsewhere.
There are few dry counties remaining in Mississippi. We've had slow to no progress in getting the support to get this issue on a ballot. I do not really know how much business and revenue have already been lost, in the last 10 years or so; but it could be rather simple to make sure it doesn't happen in the future, if we work together to bring it about.