May 29, 2009
A recent surge of industries and jobs in Lowndes County during the past year has rocketed Columbus near the top of a list of nationwide economic strength ratings for micropolitan statistical areas.
"This year, we actually moved into, I''d say, the top 17 percent of all micropolitan areas in the United States," said Columbus-Lowndes Development Link Chief Executive Officer Joe Higgins. "We''ve really come a long way from where we were a few years ago."
The Policom Corp., a Florida-based company specializing in "tracking the dynamics of local economies," this year ranked Columbus 100 out of the 574 micropolitan areas in the country.
Columbus is the fourth-highest ranked Mississippi micropolitan area, behind Vicksburg, 66, Oxford, 67, and Tupelo, 84, and is ranked highest of the three cities in the Golden Triangle.
Golden Triangle cities Starkville and West Point ranked 218 and 481, respectively.
"Now, this is not the be all and end all rating for an area''s economy, but it is definitely something we keep up with each year," Higgins added. "I think this ranking is really the fruit of the labors of everything Columbus has been able to accomplish in the past few years."
The Friendly City has steadily climbed the list since it was ranked 374 in 2004. Last year, Columbus occupied the 174th spot.
"I think one of the big bragging points we have is that we have moved within 16 spots of Tupelo," said Higgins. "When I first got here, everything was about Tupelo, Tupelo, Tupelo. They''ve done a good job, and I think it really says something to be catching up to them."
The Policom list is based on several criteria related to economic development and worker quality-of-life issues. Each year, the company studies each of the 574 micropolitan and 366 metropolitan areas in the country and compiles a separate economic strength rating list for each category.
According to the company, a micropolitan area must cover at least one entire county and contain a city of between 10,000 and 50,000 residents.
The company then rates each area''s overall economic growth, per-capita employee wages, non-farm, construction and retail job growth and each area''s percentage of residents on welfare and Medicaid.
"It''s the Severstals, Paccars and Eurocopters that have helped us jump up the list so much," said Higgins. "One of the things that really helped us was the fact that we didn''t just bring in a bunch of jobs. The jobs we brought in are high-paying benefited jobs that really help to improve the area''s quality of life.
"These consultants that help big companies look for areas to locate definitely look at these ratings, and I think that will really help us out in the future," Higgins added. "As everyone in this business knows, the rich tend to get richer. I think this growth will help to spur even more growth and push us even further up the list next year."