WAYNE COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Business is booming across Wayne County.
In the next few months prospects of chain restaurants, gas stations, and industrial companies are being forged to join the current business makeup of Waynesboro.
Executive Director of the Wayne County Economic Development District (EDD) Sean Dunlap said many factors contribute to a company's decision to develop, and officials are doing everything they can to grow the county's economy.
"We work hard to promote a positive business environment, and it's paying off," Dunlap said. "The city and the county are growing."
Over the past year, officials made improvements to infrastructure and beautification. Dunlap said those changes bring long term benefits to residents through improved fire ratings and lower crime rates, but it also brings more stores to the area.
"Businesses are looking for places with low crime rate, positive attitudes and low property taxes," Dunlap said. "Those are the selling points that are helping us recruit businesses."
A Litter Caesar's is under construction in Waynesboro, and several industrial projects and a gas station are currently in negotiations.
"For every dollar these companies bring into the economy there is a four dollar impact for the community."
Each year Wayne County accumulates approximately $2.2 million in sales tax. This year revenue is expected to grow.
Currently the county has 92 percent of their available commercial space occupied. Dunlap said this is the gold standard that county's look for, and he expects the diversity of retailers to intensify with new area to develop.
Two commercial spaces are expanding along the U.S. Highway 45 and 84 bypass. According to the EDD, this expands the commercial space available in the area and is prime real estate for future investors.
According to Dunlap several new stores have mentioned a deciding factors for expanding in the area was the recent increase in arrests, a change Dunlap credits to Wayne County Sheriff Jody Ashley.
"People want to locate a business where they feel safe in the community," Dunlap said. "Crime needs to be the exception, not the rule."
Dunlap said Ashley's proactive stance is making an impact.
According to Ashley, since he took office in January there have been more arrests in the past four months than in the past four years at the Sheriff's Department.
"Four years ago there were 27 murders in the city and the county," Ashley said. "Four years ago, I don't think these companies would have invested in Wayne County."
Ashley said his number one priority is getting rid of drugs in the county.
"We want to be a crime-free county," Ashley said. "We're sending the message if you're bringing drugs into the county then you're going to go to jail. It's as simple as that."