With an eye on fostering a climate for job creation, the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors approved business investment incentives for five firms planning growth.
"Here we go again with business expansions," said Supervisor Michael Lee of Hernando, board president. "I'm glad to see people moving to DeSoto County and doing business here." He said that while the board wants to assist with incentives, "we expect something in return. Jobs for our residents. That's what it's all about: good jobs."
Executives with the firms, who were presented by Bryant Henley of the DeSoto County Economic Development Council, pledged to make local hires a priority.
Approved for incentives were the following: BPI Coatings in Olive Branch, free port warehouse (new) and 10-year real and personal property incentives (new); Diamond Comic Distributors of Olive Branch, five-year personal property (expanded); Intuitive Surgical of Southaven, 10-year real and personal property (new), following a free port warehouse incentive granted on Dec. 19; Olympia Tools International of Olive Branch, 10-year real property (new) and five-year personal property (new); and Zimmer U.S. of Olive Branch, free port warehouse.
Along with industrial promise, there was good news on the home-building front with April's numbers for permits across the county. Permit activity is considered a barometer of economic vitality in general and housing-market health in particular.
In their monthly report to the board, DeSoto Planning Director Bennie Hopkins and Deputy Director Austin Cardosi listed 124 residential permits for April, of which 116 were single-family and eight were mobile home permits. This represents an uptick from March, there were 114 permits, 112 single-family and two mobile home.
The April numbers were a slight decline from the year-ago month's figures of 132 single-family permits and two mobile home permits. Year-to-date numbers for 2017 are 406 permits; during January-April 2016, they stood at 420.
Still, officials were upbeat, with Hopkins saying weather was a factor in April's numbers, and pointing to permit activity expected soon from a number of subdivisions. During the Planning agenda, the supervisors took action on one, conditionally endorsing the application of Pete Riley, spokesman for the developer group seeking preliminary subdivision approval to create 42 lots on 80.48 acres on the south side of Newell Road and east of Miss. 301 South in the Lake Cormorant area of west DeSoto. The proposed community is called St. Expedite.
"I think we'll end up exceeding last year's permit numbers this year, based on what I'm seeing," said Supervisor Mark Gardner, a Southaven Realtor. "Inventory continues to be low, and more people are making the decision to build because they can't find what they want from a more limited selection."
Gardner added: "Builders are building 'spec' homes again, but they're not so speculative or risky because there are buyers waiting for them. It's an exciting time."
"We're not up to last year's numbers yet, but we're filling the gap," said Cardosi. "The weather is good; we feel we'll surpass last year."
The 2016 total of 1,253 permits (1,200 single-family, 23 multi-family and 30 mobile home) was the biggest since the 1,724 of 2007 and the onset of the Great Recession. Permits hit a low of 483 in 2010 and have been rising steadily since, and at about a 10 percent rate of increase since 2014.
As to the planned St. Expedite development, the board gave preliminary approval after hearing nearby property owners' concerns about stormwater runoff, right-of- way acquisition, suitable entrance and other issues.
The motion made by Supervisor Lee Caldwell of Nesbit conditioned final approval on several requirements, including: widening for safety purposes along the Newell Road frontage of the property, or if engineering review deems it sufficient, have widening at the entrances; at least 50 percent brick construction of homes; no trailers or prefabricated homes; and design of an entryway with input from adjacent landowners, plus all conditions set earlier by the DeSoto Planning Commission.
County officials gave assurances that no right-of-way acquisition right now affects anyone other than the St. Expedite property owners. If there are any changes, the affected landowners and public will be notified of hearings.
"If we need more, you'll be notified," Caldwell told a land-owning couple. "You can deed it to us, or we can buy it from you."
Riley also assured that no mobile homes would ever be allowed, and that all the upscale, single-family homes would be a minimum of 2,500 square feet. He said he personally would be building a 4,500 square-foot home.
"Our goal is to have beautiful homes" on the site, said Riley. "We want to fit in the community and abide by all the rules."
Henry Bailey is Contributing Writer and Copy Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 662-429-6397, Ext. 241.