A Marriott Autograph hotel will be built at Township at Colony Park.
A Marriott Autograph hotel will be built at Township at Colony Park.
RIDGELAND — This was a good year for business and the new year looks even brighter, city officials said.

Millions of dollars in projects from car dealerships to restaurants, hotels and retail stores are being invested with over 60 applications this year to the architectural review board for new projects and renovations.

Mayor Gene F. McGee said there are several important factors associated with economic development that he and the board of aldermen recognize and continue to implement.

McGee said good planning with quality infrastructure is one of those factors, from adequate sewer and water to transportation. Lower taxes are also a key, he said, along with public safety and a pro-business environment.

“It’s very difficult for businesses to survive in this day and time if they can’t afford to operate,” he said. “We’ve maintained a strategy of keeping property taxes low.”

By keeping property taxes low, the city is able to recruit and retain businesses that feed sales tax to the city.

As far as safety, McGee said it’s important to have top-notch fire and police departments so businesses don’t hesitate when it comes to investing in the city.

“You also have to have an attitude that you’re interested in promoting business,” McGee said.

That’s why the city has invested heavily in multi-use trails and other amenities that are attractive to employees and make investing in Ridgeland an easier sale, the mayor said.

“It means something to have award-winning parks,” McGee said.  

Alan Hart, director of community development for the city, said Ridgeland is really balanced in both housing and working options.

“It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to work in Ridgeland with such committed leadership that is focused on a better future,” Hart said. “The dedication of the mayor and board to remain intimately involved in the process is the primary reason why we remain successful.”

Thirty-three years ago Ridgeland took advantage of an opportunity that not only kickstarted the city’s economic development outlook, but also gave officials the vision that is carried out today.

Northpark mall opened in 1984, but the developers originally eyed a location in Jackson.

But the late Mayor Hite B. Wolcott was, among other things, able to get sewer and water to the site.

“Jackson fought it (the mall),” Hart said. “Jackson wouldn’t give them the zoning.”

County Line Road at the time was a wooded pig trail.

McGee added, “It’s the attitude of making decisions based on what’s best for the city and not what’s best for you. (Northpark mall) jump started us on sales tax.”

Sales tax revenues from Northpark enabled Ridgeland to grow and provide services.

Earlier this year, the new owners of the mall announced they were investing millions of dollars on the inside and outside of the mall.

Hart and McGee said there is so much activity going on throughout Ridgeland now and 2017 brought about many new businesses.

Some of those new business are: Mercedes Benz of Jackson relocated to Steed Road, a Tru by Hilton and Holiday Inn Express were approved for construction on Ridgeland Avenue, Hardee’s was approved to build on the site of the old Ralph and Kacoo’s, Pafford Ambulance Service is building a regional headquarters at 223 Highpoint Drive, and two new hotels and a community meeting center were approved for Township at Colony Park.

There was also an abundance of new restaurants that opened up this year and more planned for 2018. Those include: Papito’s opened their second location on Lake Harbour Drive, Slim Chickens will open its first metro location in January, Doe’s Eat Place and Steve’s Ribs opened in the Promenade Shopping Center, Gumbo Girl opened in the old AJ’s location on County Line Road, and Yia Yia’s Greek Kitchen opened up in the Oak Place Shopping Center.

In 2018, work on the Lake Harbour Road extension will pave the way for new economic development opportunities. The city is currently working on rebranding its I-220 Industrial Park.

Next year will also mark the opening of the new phase of Renaissance at Colony Park, which includes a Costco. And the city is working with a group looking to bring an Audi, Jaguar and Land Rover dealership to Sunnybrook Road.

McGee said there is a lot of excitement in the air in Ridgeland and they are seeing realtor signs up on property that has sat vacant because economic development is coming.