The economy keeps chugging along and at least in DeSoto County a large factor is the upsurge in new residential home construction with commercial construction also on the upswing.
"We're up this past December higher than we were in December of 2016," said Bennie Hopkins, Director of Planning for DeSoto County. "Builders are definitely building. Our office is definitely busy."
The latest building permit information from the Planning Department shows that single-family residential home construction in DeSoto County outpaced the prior year's numbers by a comfortable margin, or 1,349 total permits issued in 2017 compared to 1,200 in 2016.
The latest figures show that much of the new residential construction is in rural unincorporated DeSoto County, with 482 permits pulled in rural, unincorporated areas for 2017 compared to 367 in 2016, and up from 338 in 2015.
Southaven had the second highest number of permits pulled with 409, Olive Branch had 307, Horn Lake 40, Hernando 136 and Walls 18.
During the height of the building boom in DeSoto County in 2005, DeSoto County had 2,802 permits, with more than 708 recorded in rural unincorporated areas.
That year, 2005, Southaven registered 933 permits and Olive Branch 693, which compares with 395 for Southaven in 2017 and 307 in Olive Branch.
Bryant Jernigan, the newly-installed President of the Home Builders Association of North Mississippi, said the boom times of the early 2000s might never be seen again, but the housing construction market has improved drastically since the Great Recession of 2007-08.
"For the last two and a half years it's been extremely strong," Jernigan said. "The numbers aren't what they were when things were really booming but it's been fantastic around here lately. It's nice to see. We used to have people begging for work and now everybody is busy."
Jernigan said the higher appraisals from the DeSoto County Property Tax Assessor's Office are helping spur the economy.
"We're seeing some of the highest appraisals for houses in particular school districts," Jernigan said. "Lewisburg and Hernando are seeing some of the highest appraisals in the area. Those appear to be among the more desirable places that people want to live. The big draw is the school system. Interest rates are also a tremendous factor. They are still tremendously desirable."
The good news is a far cry from the doldrums of 2007-08 when the bottom dropped out of the housing market. By 2010, the county's home construction market only registered 483 permits.
"When that happened I had to get out of it for awhile," Jernigan said. "I had a landscape business for 19 years that I went back to."
Jernigan said he first became a builder back in 2003-04.
"For obvious reasons, I stopped in 2008," Jernigan said. "I started back again about three or four years ago."
Jernigan hopes the good times last for awhile.
"We hope it (housing construction boom) will last for several more years," Jernigan said.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.