What does 2023 hold for Bolivar County?
By MARK H. STOWERS
The Bolivar Bullet
This past year was certainly one for the record books. The Supreme Court overturned the Roe v Wade ruling and sent abortion control back to the state level. The January 6th event that took place at the nation’s capital is still being sorted out a year later. The world dealt with global inflation, Russia invaded Ukraine and Elon Musk bought Twitter. The mid-term elections weren’t the red wave that was predicted. The Rams won the Super Bowl.
But, with a more local look at industry and events around the Magnolia State, local business owners and professionals explained what happened locally and what they expect in 2023.
Danny Abraham has been running a business in downtown Cleveland for more than four decades and was pleased with his sales in 2022.
“Abraham’s retail business is up over 2021,” said Abraham. “We had a very strong Christmas, and we are extremely optimistic for 2023 as it will be our 44th year in business in historic downtown Cleveland. We are blessed with a repeat customer base with clients from over 45 states. Abraham’s remains focused on carrying the ‘finest’ lines in the industry and offering wonderful customer service. We are thankful to the community for their continued support and look forward to the coming year.”
On the banking forefront, Danny Whalen of Cleveland State Bank gave his thoughts on 2022 and outlook for 2023.
“The big story entering 2022 was the anticipation of the rapid rise of interest rates. But, 2022 actually turned out to be a positive year for the banking industry. We managed the interest rate rise and I think we can say we are closer to the top of where interest rates will be,” said Whalen.
Whalen notes the bigger concern is managing inflation.
“We’ve been very thankful that asset quality and the performance of the business community. There’s was a slight concern after pandemic stimulus money wound down, but we didn’t suffer much from that,” he said. “We managed to survive the interest rate rise, but did see a decrease in mortgages due to interest rates rising. Now that mortgage rates are above seven percent, there is little interest in moving or in refinancing.”
In looking at 2023, Whalen believes interest rates will stay elevated before coming down in 2024. He does think there will be more technology in the banking world and more customers relying on those features.
“We’re not a work from remote bank, we’re a community bank, customer contact driven, but we’ll continue to see an implementation of more digital technology for the convenience of the customer,” he said.
Tim Thompson of Bill’s Custom Automatics in Shelby saw a decrease in business in 2022.
“Business was down as a whole because after COVID and reduced incomes for some, people aren’t as willing to have custom firearms built. Also, anytime there is talk of firearm restriction or gun legislation, it affects the market,” said Thompson. “My builds were down in 2022 and since COVID. Ammo has been hard to get, but that seems to be getting better and we are starting to get in reloading supplies.”
Thompson worked on a lot of repairs and maintenance in 2022. He believes that ammo “will be a pivotal commodity in 2023. Ammo has gone up in price 30% to 35%. The most I’ve seen in the past 30 years. The cost is driven by supply and demand and some of the government policies on lead and copper,” he says.
Harold Register of Harold’s Auto Parts stayed busy in 2022 and is looking for help in 2023 to keep up with demand.
“We had a good year in 2022, said Register. “But, it’s hard to find good people to work and I am hoping that will be better this year.”
Supply chain issues did create some headaches for Register in 2022.
“I was able to get hydraulic hoses, but some of the fittings that are also needed were not available. The hose isn’t any good without the fittings. I spent more time on the telephone trying to track stuff down,” he said. “I used to could make one phone call and was able to get what I needed 90% of the time. Last year I learned to order things in bulk when they were available.”
James McBride of the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors saw a lot of activity on the county level in 2022 with more to come in 2023.
“Our biggest concern last year was continued advancements to infrastructure and working on economic development and healthcare. You can have the economic development, but if you don’t have a healthy population, having adequate jobs is to no avail,” said McBride.
A new fire station and renovating the Bolivar County Exposition Center and improvements at Rosedale’s historic Terrene Landing were positive projects.
“We are steadily making improvement to bring those areas up to par and attract tourism to the county. In 2022 we used some money that we had to improve roads, especially around those coming into the metropolitan area. Highway 61 coming into town coming in from Boyle. We brought them up to standards that are comparable to streets in the city limits.”
The board also bought some equipment for the county, one for clearing ditches and one for rebuilding roads.
“We are continually trying to make Bolivar County a better place for everybody,” said McBride. “Bolivar County hasn’t had any problems with its hospital like some counties around us, thankfully.”
Looking at 2023, McBride and the board are looking to attract new and added businesses to the county.
“We have been in contact with the chamber and they have assured us they are trying to attract new industry. Whatever this board can do to help with that, we are all in.”
Shelby-based St. Andrew Missionary Baptist Church Pastor, Eugene Anderson weighed in with his thoughts on 2022, and noted that last year was a time to literally get back in church.
“Last year was a year for recovery,” said Anderson. “Many churches closed the sanctuary doors during COVID and started virtual services which we did as well. Being able to open our doors again was a recovery from many of the losses of friends and brothers and sisters in Christ. I feel we did do the right thing during the height of the pandemic by going virtual, but it was great to be able to be back to in-person worship which we resumed this past May.”
“We are still recovering from the affects of the pandemic,” said Anderson. “A lot of people have still not returned to the sanctuary. We still do our Bible Study and Sunday School by conference call, but as I stated earlier we began having our worship services in person this past May.”
His congregation is at 30% of members in attendance currently. In 2023, he sees more healing for churches.
“I think that it will get better. There’s been so much confusion and so much division with religion and politics. Perhaps at some point we’ll come back together. I think there is beginning to be a stronger push to pull together. To tear down the walls. I grew up during the time of the Civil Rights era. It has not left me bitter, but it has left me cautious. I’ve seen people on both sides of races show ugliness. But, I’ve seen more people come around to saying hey, let’s do this thing together. And, that’s where we need to be. The ugliness we saw in 2022 and 2021, I think it has opened the eyes of a lot of people and we can see the truth. Our role is to pray about certain things and ask the Lord to lead and guide us so we can lead and guide other people.”
Anderson also explained that he is seeing more black and white ministers speak for unity in the Gospel rather than unity in politics.
“That’s what I’m looking for this year,” he said. “We need to see some boldness from the church in 2023 and break through whatever has separated and bound us.”