Local economy: Some cause for optimism

July 30, 2010 10:14:00 AM

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The local economy may be sluggish, but we''ve been heartened by signs of a pulse lately. 

 

Just outside The Dispatch''s office this week, Columbus Light and Water crews were jack-hammering away, replacing pipes under Main Street in advance of a Mississippi Department of Transportation project to repave Main (officially Highway 182) from Highway 82 to the Alabama state line. Across the street, amid the heavy machinery, a worker was installing a neon sign for a new restaurant going in 509 Main Street. 

 

A few other restaurants, including Zaxby''s and Logan''s Roadhouse chains, announced plans this week to build in Columbus. 

 

No fewer than three hotels are coming, too. Work has started on Courtyard by Marriott and Fairfield Inn and Suites on 18th Avenue, and a Hampton Inn is planned for Highway 45, between Belk and Reed''s department stores. 

 

The notoriously pothole-riddled Military Road is restored, smooth and drivable again. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, the city''s largest private employer, has a new behavioral-health wing in the works. 

 

Audubon Cove, a townhouse development, is going up off Holly Hills Road. More condos and office space, housing the Convention and Visitors Bureau, are under construction next to the Tennessee Williams Home and Welcome Center, also under renovation.  

 

And, of course, work will soon begin on the soccer complex in Burns Bottom, with plans for nature trails amid the playing fields. Other public projects include the new county Heath Department at Lehmberg and Warpath roads. 

 

Yes, state and local government funding is tightening, and we''ve lost retail along with the gains. And, federal stimulus-related paving projects and other public works funds won''t be here forever.  

 

Nationwide, we''re still bumping along the bottom, and the state is right there with it. Some economists predict a "double-dip" recession is still a threat, while most others see an extremely weak recovery. 

 

"The national recovery has weakened but the economy continues to expand," the economists with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning said in their latest monthly report. "At this point, it is likely the state will follow a similar path of very modest growth." 

 

Modest growth is better than none at all. While we''re still suffering through the Great Recession, the patient has a heartbeat, which we hope is getting stronger. We can''t help take pleasure in the steady pounding of the hammers out there.