by Zachary Oren Smith
Mayor Yarber and large wholesaler, Costco, have been working to bring a Costco location to Jackson. Along with the large sales-tax revenue to be gained, Yarber sees Costco as a great choice for the city’s labor force due to its relatively higher wage for entry-level positions as compared to other large wholesalers such as Target and Kroger. Costco’s CEO and President Craig Jelinek supports a national minimum wage increase to $10.10, and acts on this conviction, paying entry level workers $11.50 per hour.
In the company’s initial research, Costco selected three potential locations: two in Rankin County and one on the green space north of Lakeland Drive. Despite having the necessary space for the new location, Rankin is a mostly dry county, so Costco would not be able to sell liquor in its first Mississippi location. The company prefers the Jackson location because of the potential for revenue from alcohol sales and the location’s high visibility and accessibility. This, coupled with the Yarber’s personal investment in the project, makes the Jackson location extremely appealing. This is not to say Costco’s move is not controversial.
Rick Cleveland, director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, has expressed disagreement with the project. Because the city has invested so much money into the museums that surround the site—including the sports museum Cleveland runs, Mississippi Children’s Museum, and the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum—some believe to move a large-box retailer into the location would damage the cultural site. The Lakeland site would also require the demolition of the Michael B. Johnson Memorial Park, a baseball park currently used by Murrah High School’s baseball team. Many in the community also express anxiety over the increased traffic the Costco would bring to Lakeland’s already congested six-lane thoroughfare.
Major debate has arisen around whether or not Costco can even legally own the land. The land was originally a “Special Use District,” meaning that any action done with the management of the land would need to be in the form of a park or other public land site. On Aug. 27, Yarber failed to convince the Jackson Planning Board to rezone the plot as a “C-3” and “Community Mixed-Use,” which would both allow for the building of a Costco. Yarber responded to the planning board, writing, “The secretary of state is mistaken in his assertion, as the 313 acres was parceled off many years ago, with specific parcels being deeded to the state of Mississippi for non-park purposes. Therefore, it is the City’s position that the issue of the reverter may have been waived and is now moot.” In the meantime, Jacksonians can expect the controversy to continue as Yarber pursues the process of rezoning.