OCEAN SPRINGS -- It's never a done deal until the sale is final and equipment is turning dirt. But cities hope. A Wal-Mart of any size is welcome in Jackson County, where Wal-Mart has selected sites in three cities for future stores -- Pascagoula, Ocean Springs and Gautier.
It's a dance of give and take and wait.
But while the cities are waiting, a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is breaking ground on North Washington Avenue in St. Martin. It's the first for a community outside a city in Jackson County, and the county's first Neighborhood Wal-Mart.
Realtor Mark Cumbest sold the property behind M&M Bank last week and the county issued a construction permit to White-Spunner of Mobile. Equipment was clearing ground Wednesday.
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That one had made it through the county planning process in June, according to the Sun Herald. Seven months passed, then bam.
"It happens fast," Cumbest said. "It closed last week."
The North Washington Avenue Wal-Mart is set on 8 acres behind M&M Bank, will have fresh produce, organics, a fuel station and entrances off North Washington and Ponce de Leon Drive. It will cost $2.7 million and hire 95.
In Mississippi, the full-
time average hourly wage at Wal-Mart is $13.31. Full- and part-time workers get bonuses for store performance; a 401(k) retirement plan; and education and health benefits, a company spokeswoman said. The 41,000-square-foot building is expected to be complete in September.
What about the others?
Ocean Springs did its due diligence when Wal-Mart came knocking for a Neighborhood Market at the old Delchamps site on U.S. 90 two years ago. That site is next door to the AT&T call center and Ace Hardware.
"We cleared it through all our reviews, including design review," city planner and grants coordinator Carolyn Martin said. The company was even cleared for a demolition permit to take down the old building. But nothing happened. Then building official Hilliard Fountain got word this week that the project has been pushed back to 2020.
"There was nothing the city did to discourage them," Martin said. The city stayed in touch with Wal-Mart engineers once a month, but in recent months things went quiet.
Gautier has a history
Gautier has hoped for a Wal-Mart Supercenter for the old Singing River Mall site for half a decade.
Mayor Gordon Gollott said it's a perfect site for one, because it's on U.S. 90 with easy access to Interstate 10. The city has done all it's been asked to do, including a Wal-Mart-approved developmental agreement the company never signed. That one has gone quiet, as well.
"The developers said don't give up," Gollott said. "39,500 cars a day pass in front of the old Singing River Mall site. It's the only shopping site totally surrounded by four-lane access."
Pascagoula is working with Wal-Mart for a Neighborhood Market on Market Street in south Pascagoula.
Cumbest put that package together. It includes property from Calvary Baptist, the old Monty's Sporting Goods, the old Estabrook Toyota site, two homes and a vacant lot. It would have entrances on Market and Communy streets. The city this week fixed environmental issues Wal-Mart wanted checked off.
"As far as we know, everything's still on go," City Manager Joe Huffman said.
But a start date?
"I've never heard one," he said.
According to its website, Wal-Mart has 63 Supercenters in Mississippi, four discount stores, 10 Neighborhood Markets and seven Sam's Clubs.
Jackson County has two of the Supercenters -- one in east Ocean Springs and one in Pascagoula.
Mary Perez, Sun Herald business writer, contributed to this report.