Pearl River County sits at the center of the Gulf Coast super-region that stretches from Baton Rouge and New Orleans to Northwest Florida and is home to more than 5 million residents. Along with its geographic advantages, the County’s assets include transportation infrastructure (Interstate 59, Picayune Municipal Airport, freight rail), scenic and natural amenities (the Pearl River and Crosby Arboretum), two medical districts (Highland Community Hospital in Picayune and Pearl River County Hospital in Poplarville), two downtown districts with redevelopment opportunities (Picayune and Poplarville) and Pearl River Community College. Despite these strengths, Pearl River County’s economic development potential remains largely untapped and it has struggled to attract jobs, talent, and investment.
In response to these challenges and missed opportunities, County leaders established a new full-time economic development program in early 2020, just a handful of weeks before COVID-19 erupted into a global pandemic and the US entered the worst economic recession in nearly a century. Despite the economic headwinds of 2020, the County proceeded with the creation of its first-ever economic development strategic plan, facilitated by TIP Strategies (TIP). The work was informed, in part, by an opportunities analysis prepared separately by TIP for the six-county Gulf Coast region including Pearl River County. It is built around three pillars: creating well-paying jobs and driving sustainable investment, ensuring the County has the skills needed to support current and future employers, and making investments that support and enhance the County’s quality of place. Strategies to complement the three pillars focused on developing commercial sites, targeting sectors that leverage unique regional assets (including Stennis Space Center and regional defense contractors), formalizing a business retention and expansion effort, refining and promoting the County value proposition, and aligning Pearl River County’s efforts with neighboring jurisdictions.