Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hollandale, Part Four:

“What economy? I’m dead serious. What economy?”
Ashley Richmond, 17 Years Old.

Annual Income in Hollandale:


At the center of town is a huge, rusting, metal factory, the remnants of a cottonseed oil plant. The history of trade and economics in Hollandale is the same throughout the Mississippi Delta: cotton. All aspects of the cotton industry, from the fieldwork to the gin to the huge, cottonseed oil plant provided work. The train tracks run alongside the plant. In 1983 the plant was closed and, soon after, the trains stopped running through Hollandale.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s cotton production became much more mechanized in the region. “One tractor equals 150 men,” said Mr. Sanders. At this point the catfish processing plant became the main industry in town. The plant closed in 2002, laying off 200 people or almost a tenth of the town’s population. The biggest employer is now the school district.

“Hollandale is in a desperate situation. A city should set the majority of its revenue from two places: sales tax and property tax,” said Mr. Larry Burford, the mayor of Hollandale from 2001 to 2005. “Because of the loss of industry and the proximity of Greenville we have very little sales tax. Because most of our homeowners are elderly they receive an exemption from the property tax. We have no money. We can’t repair the roads or the sewers. With the price of gas rising and the price of health insurance sky-rocketing we won’t be able to pay the police officers.”

“The city is living month to month,” said Mr. Sanders.

Downtown is now completely boarded up with the exception of Jane’s (the white café) and a storefront church, The Powerhouse Apostolic Deliverance Church or, as the people in town call it, “The Powerhouse.”

“Wal-Mart put the final nail in the coffin,” said Mr. Sanders. A Super Wal-Mart opened in Greenville, 28 miles away, in 2002. “The last few shops that were hanging on were gone after that. When churches start moving into your downtown district that’s the end.”

The decline of the cotton industry and the closing of the cottonseed oil and catfish plants, has choked off most of the available revenue. This, in turn, has lead to some stark numbers...

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