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Tax numbers in West Point signal bright future

 

Construction continues at the Yokohama plant in West Point. The city received $128,098 more in sales tax revenue from the Mississippi Department of Revenue last fiscal year than it did the previous. Mayor Robbie Robinson and local businessmen say the coming plant is part of the uptick.

Construction continues at the Yokohama plant in West Point. The city received $128,098 more in sales tax revenue from the Mississippi Department of Revenue last fiscal year than it did the previous. Mayor Robbie Robinson and local businessmen say the coming plant is part of the uptick. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

By Nathan Gregory and William Browning

 

WEST POINT -- Sales tax revenue is up in this Clay County town. 

 

A lot. 

 

Altogether, the city received $128,098 more in sales tax revenue from the Mississippi Department of Revenue for the last fiscal year than it did for the previous. 

 

A big part of that increase is this: Last year Japanese tire maker Yokohama broke ground on what will eventually be a 5 million square foot manufacturing plant in the town. Yokohama has said the facility, slated to be at full capacity by 2023, will bring up to 2,000 jobs to the area through the next decade.  

 

Despite the fact that the facility is still in the construction phase and has not yet produced a tire, Mayor Robbie Robinson, in an interview last week, said Yokohama is certainly part of the sales tax revenue increase. 

 

Roughly 200 people are working at the job site each day, not including truck drivers that come and go, according to Joe Max Higgins, the CEO of the Golden Triangle Development LINK. It's obviously not just those couple hundred people driving up sales tax revenue, though. 

 

So why the increase? Robinson has a theory. 

 

"It has helped create a positive frame of mind," he said. 

 

What Robinson meant was that after years of West Point and Clay County having high unemployment numbers after a decade of plant closures and job losses, the Yokohama news has put positivity in the air and, he said, "changed the outlook." 

 

Robinson explained that if someone has been thinking of purchasing a new truck, or a washer and dryer, they might hesitate if tough times seem to have no end. The news of 2,000 jobs coming to town, has a way of brightening moods. Consequently, maybe someone decides to go ahead and install a new roof, or buy that washer and dryer. 

 

That's not to say Yokohama has not directly impacted the town's economy at least to some extent. 

 

Jim Swoope, the manager of the Ritz Cafe on Commerce Street, said he has seen Yokohama officials dining at the downtown spot on several locations over the last few months. But in general, too, the dining room has been more packed. 

 

"Without a doubt, our crowds have been up," Swoope said. 

 

Phillip Dimino, the owner of Phillip's Hardware on Highway 45, has also seen more traffic in his store and an increase in spending and purchasing. It has been a slow climb spread throughout the last year, but it's been steady, he said. 

 

"I think, in general, across the board, West Point is making more progress," Dimino said. 

 

Like Robinson, Dimino said while Yokohama was a big spark, it's not the only part of the equation. The region simply bottomed out and leveled off, Dimino said, and now it is beginning to rise. He has noticed more construction around town and simply more activity, he said. 

 

The numbers support his argument. 

 

The city recently received $229,091 from the state Department of Revenue. That is the town's share of taxes collected from retail and restaurant sales in May 2014. That's approximately $52,953 more than what it received for retail and restaurant sales in May 2013. 

 

Out-of-town traffic is contributing to the uptick in sales tax revenue, too. West Point's tourism tax collection this month was $23,908, a $5,451 jump over last. 

 

"It's a general mix," Dimino said. "But the outlook is much brighter."

 

 

 

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