South Mississippi residents are pet lovers, like to go out to eat, have one of the lowest costs of living in the country and on average spend more money on alcohol and tobacco a year than on child care.
When Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann launched Y'all Business last fall, it was intended to provide detailed information for businesses owners looking to expand or locate in Mississippi. The county-by-county listings show what kind of businesses are needed in a county -- and that South Mississippi already has plenty of gas stations. The website also gives a picture of how residents spend their money.
Housing is the biggest expense, along with buying and keeping vehicles on the road. More than half the residents have a pet and spend generously for food, treats and medical care for those pets.
"Individuals can pinpoint a location on a map, determine traffic counts, drive times, school district information and retail marketing data," Hosemann said when he launched the site last year. "We can even show how many times people ate at a fast food restaurant in the last six months -- all in one comprehensive site."
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South Mississippians like fast food, the numbers show. About 92 percent of the residents across the three Coast counties ate at a fast food restaurant in the last 6 months -- about 44 percent of them nine times or more. They tend to visit McDonald's more often than Burger King.
The website is free, although users do have to create a password and sign in. The numbers on the website come from market research and data from the Census Bureau and other sources. In the case of restaurants, some of which are outside the area, the information is used to show market potential for a brand.
Hancock County has created its own website to entice people to come visit the area, retire there or open a business.
"It's the only one of its kind that I know of in the region," said Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce. The website provides links to job openings, homes for sale and rentals. It shows the cost of living is 8.7 percent below the national average and that the average sales price of a home ranges from $89,485 in the county to $133,772 in Bay St. Louis.
The larger businesses do their own studies, but people opening a small business can use the website for their business plan and then come to the chamber for help.
"We're there to help guide them through the maze of information and organizations that are out there to serve them," she said. And the services are free.
It was a natural for the chamber to provide the website, she said. "The chamber is the go-to place to get information," Williams said.