Hurricane Katrina proves to be boon to area

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The storm that devastated one region a year ago helped others prosper. The economic tides

in both areas may prove to be long lasting.

Adams County Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he thought the county would see the storm&8217;s positive impact for years to come.

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&8220;From an economic standpoint, we&8217;re going to constantly see interest in Adams County,&8221; he said. &8220;When we do the next census, I think we will find a population increase as a result of Katrina and the economic growth itself. I think we will see the effects for a very long time.&8221;

Katrina brought people and money to the area, and a good number of both have stayed, Natchez Economic Development Authority Chairman Woody Allen said.

&8220;It brought a lot of new people to the community, and a lot of them have opened businesses,&8221; Allen said. &8220;It has helped to reenergize our economic base.&8221;

People as much as new businesses have helped jump-start Natchez and Adams County, Allen said.

&8220;I think a lot of folks moved here with intentions of staying and being part of the community. They participate in a lot of activities and community functions,&8221; he said.

Louise Peabody is one of those who stayed. Originally from Natchez, she moved to the Lake Pontchartrain area in the mid-1980s. She opened a couple stores there, but when Katrina hit, business got difficult.

Her stores were not damaged by the storm, she said. Instead, she lost her customer base for one and her employees at another.

So, Peabody moved back to Natchez and opened her businesses, Intimate Home and My Room. The decision to move has paid off.

&8220;Business has been fabulous,&8221; Peabody said. &8220;It&8217;s local business. We see a lot of new customers. They have moved here from other areas as well.&8221;

Businesses can also benefit by taking advantage of a federal tax credit program designed to help those in the Gulf Opportunity Zone, or GO-Zone, affected by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.

Sis Stowers, part owner of a building on Main Street, said her building has long needed a new coat of paint. She said she is hoping to take advantage of the GO-Zone opportunities.

Along with retail, the housing business has boomed, too, County Tax Assessor Reynolds Atkins said.

&8220;Property values have gone up because of an increase in desire to buy houses here,&8221; Atkins said. &8220;The real estate market has been real good.&8221;

Atkins said he thought a large number of those buying houses

were influenced by the hurricane.

&8220;A lot of them, when they came, liked it and they stayed,&8221; he said.

Industrial prospects are a bonus from the storm, as well, Grennell said.

&8220;We have numerous industries contacting us because of the GO-Zone designation,&8221; Grennell said.

The storm not only helped the area economically, but should it happen again, people will be ready, Natchez Mayor Phillip West said.

&8220;People are coming to us, and New Orleans is not coming back to fullness for a while,&8221; West said. &8220;We are better off economically, and we are better prepared.&8221;