As ice melts, local economic impact becoming more clear

Published 8:57 am Tuesday, January 23, 2024

As the ice melts and streets are cleared, local businesses and city and county officials are beginning to tally up the costs of what the area’s first major winter storm cost.

Unlike other weather events, like tornadoes and hurricanes that cause physical damage, the frigid temps and icy roads caused damage to government budgets, personal wallets and business revenue.

Pam Swain, president and CEO of the Oxford and Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce said the unprecedented long stint of extreme cold and ice had a significant impact on area businesses.

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“Anytime our businesses are forced to close their doors it is a loss of business, which affects not only their bottom line, but also those that work for them,” she said. “However, this one also came with additional expenses like possible busted pipes, higher than budgeted for heating and electrical expenses, restaurants dealing with the loss of food because of spoiling and also loss of deliveries to prepare for their customers once open, and so forth.”

Swain credited city and county employees’ hard work and dedication in helping to get people back to work and back on the roads as soon as possible.

“It hasn’t been easy, and these men and women have braved the extreme cold and been in treacherous conditions all for the people of our community,” she said. “As businesses open back up we hope our community members will be able to get back out, show some extra love to our area stores and restaurants, tip a little higher than normal, and be careful along the way.”

As a local business owner, Jason Plunk, the owner of Bullseye 95.5 and Hotty Toddy Wedding Cars, experienced the loss personally and as chair of the Chamber Board, also heard from fellow business owners.

” I know first-hand how hard lost revenue is to make up. No matter the circumstance, it shifts the bottom line,” he said. “I suggest our Oxonians consider ‘un-clicking’ a few items in their Amazon or other online cart and consider spending that money locally instead.”

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill often uses the phrase #strongertogether and Plunk said now is the time for community members to come together to help each other and support local businesses and local officials.

“During this time, I saw one too many people who sat behind a keyboard and criticized those exceptional individuals who worked tirelessly to clear our roads,” he said. “To those naysayers, I say shame on you. Shame on you for being a bad neighbor and not cheering them on like the rest of us.”

While unpredictable and often strange weather events are common in north Mississippi and Lafayette County, Allen Kurr, vice president of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation said the conditions over the last week are “quite unique” and were a challenge for all businesses and industries in our area.

“We applaud the hard work by our city and county employees for the long hours of clearing roads and for their detailed and consistent updates,” he said. “Their efforts, both seen and unseen, directly led to Industry in Oxford continuing to stay productive with little downtime.

“We look forward to getting back to full speed in the coming days, but we must remember that the best way to support your neighbor is to shop and support local.”

The Oxford Eagle will continue to examine the economic impact of last week’s storm and provide that information as it becomes available.