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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- Two large retailers are a step closer to starting construction on new outlets in Columbus. This could mean a major boost to the city’s economy.

Lowndes county supervisors and the city council approved tax incentives Tuesday. City and county leaders aren’t naming the businesses yet until the final paperwork is signed, but they are said to be a major sporting goods outlet and an arts and crafts specialty store. They’ll make their home in a new $8 million center on Highway 45 North next to Belk.

“The Hutton project. It’s a retail project that’s going to take part of the old Belk building of University Mall part that’s not used. They’ll demolish that and build 50,000 square feet of new retail,” said Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Higgins.

The city and county will dedicate part of the new property and sales tax revenues to bonds that will pay for more than a million dollars in water, sewer and drainage improvements. Other new taxes will go to city and county coffers. That’s good news for the city, which depends on sales tax revenues for more than 40% of its budget.

“Most people know that any municipality sales tax is the largest generator of funds for a city. Columbus has seen a reduction in sales tax 10 out of the last 12 months. But I do think this is going to be a big boom for the city,” said Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin.

Gavin thinks the stores will mean more shoppers for other existing businesses as well.

“I think what will happen is that it will spur other shoppers from other cities in West Point, Starkville, Macon and Aberdeen, West Alabama communities to come to Columbus to shop because it’s going to offer shopping for them that otherwise they would have to drive much further to other cities,” said Gavin.

If everything goes as planned, the deal should be signed by the end of the year and construction will start by March.

“We’re really excited about the project. The developer tells us it’ll be finished by October next year so the week before thanksgiving so there should be some sales tax generating for Columbus,” said Higgins.

The deals are expected to be finalized following public hearings next month.


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