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Residents hope new industry jumpstarts local economy

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Updated: 4/26/2013 11:00 pm
WEST POINT, Miss. (WTVA) -- Friday's announcement from Jackson puts a smile on the faces of many West Point residents.

The efforts of state lawmakers helped land a tire manufacturing plant in Clay County.

To understand how significant that is, though, one has to realize just how dire the county's economic conditions have been in recent years.

"West Point was just going down, and the city -- to me -- looked like it wasn't going to bounce back," business owner Alma Brown said.

Those sobering words come from the owner of ABC Fashions, who's welcomed customers into her fashion store for 24 years.

While she's weathered the economic storm, others in the city did not.

"You could see people going out of business, and it was hard to stay here, knowing that folks don't have jobs to purchase things that they would like. People wanted to purchase things, but they didn't have the money," Brown said.

To say the closing of the Bryan Foods plant in 2006 was devastating to Clay County would be an understatement.

Labor statistics from Mississippi indicate that, since May 2006, the county has seen double-digit unemployment figures.

"It was like a tornado came through and just scattered everything. It hurt a lot of us. It was bad for people. Jobs just went away," Brown said.

That's why Friday's announcement of a new tire manufacturing facility -- which will create 500 new jobs in its first phase -- means so much to those who call Clay County home.

At Gibson's Hair Styles & Cuts, the news spread like wildfire.

"Hopefully this will do better for us. You know, we need something like this," resident Alvin Bush said. "Hopefully it'll be good for us, business and all, for everybody."

That's the general sentiment of many in the city: more jobs equal more money for the local economy.

"The main thing is, people do need jobs and there's nothing local for them to [have] and it causes them to not have what they need or be able to provide for their families," resident Wendy Kelly said.

Sandra Ewing has lived in West Point for more than three decades. She said the announcement is more than that, representing a bright future for the city.

"This is life-changing; this is going to change a lot of people's lives. And that's what we need here. It's a great city, and we can bounce back in a major way from this great opportunity that we're getting," Ewing said.

Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign the bill into law Monday, approving $130 million in incentives for the Yokohama Tire Company to build in West Point.

Construction is expected to begin in September, and should be complete by October 2015.

If all four phases of construction end up moving forward, the company could create some 2,000 jobs.
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