October 1, 2013 9:53:54 AM
Some numbers command your attention, even if you're not certain what they mean.
Take $1 billion, for example.
On Monday, during the monthly meeting of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, it was revealed that the county's total assessed value has eclipsed the $1 billion mark for the first time. Lowndes County is one of six Mississippi counties to have surpassed that mark, joining DeSoto, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Madison and Rankin in that rare company.
How much is $1 billion? There are some fun ways to think about it. One billion one-dollar bills would "carpet" an area of roughly four square miles. If you stacked a billion one-dollar bills, the stack would be almost 68 miles tall. Laid end-to-end, a billion one-dollar bills would go around the earth four times.
OK. That's what it would look like.
The bigger question for the almost 60,000 residents of Lowndes County is: What does it mean?
One thing it means is that the county has bucked a major trend. Since 2008, when the first pangs of the Great Recession first began, the assessed value of the county has actually grown by about 25 percent, which is pretty amazing, given the breadth and scope of the hard times we are still trying to recover from nationally.
It also means that the planning that began years earlier has proven to be successful. While there are many factors in that growth, there are two that stand apart. The first is the 2001 sale of the county hospital, which created a $30 million trust fund for the county and led to the creation of the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link, which has expanded to include Clay and Oktibbeha counties to become the Golden Triangle Development Link.
Under the Link's guidance, the county has seen a boom in industrial development, the full benefits of which the county is only beginning to realize. With the expiration of fee-in-lieu agreements for a handful of those big industrial developments soon at hand, the county should reap an additional $3 million to $5 million annually in revenues.
While assessed value is one indicator of a healthy county, challenges remain in making sure the windfalls that seem almost certain to come the county's way will be used wisely, ensuring future growth and making Lowndes County a better place to live and work and play.
It is interesting to note that during this period of prosperity, the county has actually lost population, a cause for concern. We do not think it's a good idea for the county to become little more than one big industrial park.
Just as we are seeing the fruits of wise planning and decision-making that began a decade ago, it will be equally important the county officials take a long view of the road ahead. Old challenges remain. New challenges are sure to emerge.
But there is reason for optimism.
A billion reasons, you might say.