Small Town Mississippi - - Jackson, MS

Small Town Mississippi

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The economy has taken its toll on state and local budgets. Small towns in Mississippi have taken a hit but in spite of that many have found ways to stay afloat and hope to thrive again. In this special Three On Your Side report we head south of Jackson to Crystal Springs and then north to Yazoo City.

Crystal Springs was called the tomato capital of the world. The hub of activity for a once large farming community. There is still activity downtown but there are also at least 18 vacant buildings.

"You have small mom and pops that want to locate downtown, you know being a small area you have to support them heavily. And if they can't get the people in and pay their rent of course they're out of business", said Mayor Arthur Lee Evans, Jr.

Mayor Evans says gone are the days we remember from our childhoods when teenagers shopped and socialized on these streets.

"We were more oriented downtown and small spaces. Now you got everybody in the world has a car now", Mayor Evans said.

Most of the stores were owned locally and most people were on a first name basis. But he believes more people are returning to small town life and investing in the success of small communities.

"Come and just take a look at us. And I feel that if they come to Crystal Springs and know that we want them here and we're gonna do everything to promote them here and they will do well", said Evans.

From Crystal Springs we head to Yazoo City. These bright colored buildings downtown house antique shops, galleries, restaurants, nightclubs and apartments. Surveillance cameras have been added for security and there is hope more businesses will locate here at what some call the gateway to the Delta.

"Just opened a brand new call center. They renovated an historic building downtown. 100 employees, all from Yazoo County. We've got a second call center coming", said Henry Cote', Executive Director of the Yazoo County Chamber of Commerce.

30 percent of the buildings in downtown Yazoo City are vacant.

"We've had several businesses that have called and made inquiries and want to come. They see our people and how strong they are", Cote' said.

Just a few miles away, businesses were shattered by the April 24th tornado. Gone are beauty shops, the town's only skating rink, and most of the businesses in this shopping center along Highway 49.

"We have some that were under insured, we have some that had no insurance, we have some that had such high deductibles they can't pull the cash out of their pocket", said Cote'.

 40 businesses were damaged 15 were completely destroyed. With them 260 jobs.. Gone.

"Citi Trends here they're rebuilding", Cote' said.

With all the rubble there is optimism about recovery and continued growth in Yazoo City.

"We were getting a lot of traction prior to the storm. This has just set us back a little while", said Cote'.

A set back but not a death sentence. Yazoo City and Crystal Springs leaders say they are working on the future and plans they hope will bring people and businesses back to small town Mississippi.

There are predictions that after the 2010 census count, Yazoo City could become part of the metro area. Thursday night we visit Canton, Vicksburg and Forest, and we'll tell you which towns are getting new businesses and new jobs.

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