GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – 22 ribbons were cut on small businesses in George County in 2022. The county’s chamber of commerce expects growth to continue well past the new year.

Its membership now stands around 120, capping off a record year of growth for the organization and the county as a whole.

“People really don’t want to move necessarily into the cities, but they want somewhere that’s convenient. So it’s kind of a hub. We’re getting people up from the coast but also all over,” said chamber administrator Annis Dailey. “And so far we’ve been able to keep that same feel which is very important, especially in our downtown.”

The chamber’s office on Main Street in Lucedale catches the eye of many visitors and newcomers to town. The old Paul Kinch Service Station, built in 1923, was renovated to keep the original exterior’s vintage look and host visitors on the inside.

People stop by the chamber or call regularly to get more information about moving to the county or get information on starting up a business. As new home, road and business construction has taken off, Dailey has also advised companies on providing for all the needs of its contractors and temporary workforce, like lodging.

“My main job is anything that will help the city or county to grow, to help this area and promote it in any way I can. From one day to the next, there’s no telling what kind of calls come through here,” she said.

George County was already growing before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but it continued as more people began to rethink priorities in the past three years, Dailey says.

Data shows the locals that were already living in the community began to rely on shopping locally as lockdowns and restrictions took hold in larger cities. Sales tax revenue for the city nearly tripled during 2020-2021.

Owners of some of the new businesses opened in 2022 have said they saw a need during the pandemic, or missed something from where they once lived for recent transplants, and are now trying to fill that.

“I think, for the most part, all of the ones that have opened this past year, especially the restaurants, have done phenomenal. Local communities, at least ours, are really more conscious about supporting local business,” Dailey said.

In addition to the ribbon cuttings, the chamber has helped run the summer and fall farmers markets on the Courthouse Square, the Watermelon Games, Explosion of Excellence scholarship program, and Operation GC Christmas for 54 middle and high school students.

The board of directors also has plans to revitalize the arts and heritage committees and open up participation to the community to help preserve local history and give space for local artists to display or sell their work. The chamber will earn nonprofit status in the new year.

Ribbon cuttings held in 2022: