More than ever commuting daily to their workplaces

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Perry Brown of Bovina holds up his Nissan employee ID card in the van he drives to and from work.(Chad Applebaum The Vicksburg Post)

[9/2/03]Perry Brown leaves his home near Bovina around 5 every morning and drives about an hour to his new job at the Nissan plant in Canton.

It’s something Brown says he doesn’t mind doing for his family.

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“You just have to make certain sacrifices for your family, and it just takes a couple of extra hours out of my day to make sure they have everything they need,” Brown said.

Brown is just one of a growing number of Warren County residents and Mississippians who commute outside their home counties for work. According to a report from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the percentage of Warren County people who work outside the county grew from 10.5 percent in 1990 to 12.8 percent in 2000.

The report, by Barbara J. Logue, also indicates that people are driving longer distances to jobs. In 1990, 7.8 percent of Warren County workers drove more than 45 minutes one-way, but by 10 years later that number was up to 9.3 percent.

Those numbers have also grown across the state where only three counties Lamar, Noxubee and Tunica had a decrease in the number of commuters, although in Lamar County more than half of the workers still commute.

“While undoubtedly some people enjoy commuting, many find it a chore that steals time from family, friends and leisure activities,” Logue wrote.

Reasons she cites in her report include better pay or benefits, housing costs or quality-of-living concerns, but for Brown, there are “countless reasons,” he said, including continuing benefits for young workers.

“You have to think about 20 years down the line,” Brown said. “Where am I going to be when I’m 50?”

A trained tool-and-die maker, Brown, 41, said that in addition to better pay and benefits, Nissan offers a better work environment, including on-site medical clinic and more chances for advancement than jobs at home.

Across Mississippi, 31.9 percent of workers cross a county line on the way to their job. In neighboring Sharkey County, 31.7 percent commute, and in Claiborne County 43.4 percent travel for work.

Issaquena County has the highest percentage, 66.6 percent, but the second-smallest number of commuters because of its sparse population. The county with the smallest percentage of commuters is Washington, where the number of people leaving the county for work decreased by one between 1990 and 2000.

Numbers in the IHL study were derived from the U.S. Census 2000 and do not reflect new industries that have opened in the past three years, including two local suppliers for the plant in Canton.

Logue wrote in her report that the numbers also show a trend in Mississippi that is adding to problems including loss of time with family and friends, road rage and extra expenses.

“If survey results about commuting methods accurately reflect Americans’ preferences, Mississippi’s work force is moving backwards,” Logue wrote.

Survey results found that 37 percent of people asked said they would walk to work if it was feasible and 25 percent said they would prefer to travel by train, but in Mississippi, 96.5 percent of people drive or carpool to work.