Census shows fewer on the road to city

Published 11:37 pm Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fewer people are commuting to work in Warren County.

About 10.4 percent of 21,194 workers 16 years and older were counted as commuters in a five-year look at population, demographic and housing statistics in an American Community Survey estimate. The survey covers 2006 through 2010.

In the ACS’ five-year survey for 2005-09, commuters made up 11.2 percent of a labor force of 21,017. The local work force stood at 21,280 in October, down 1.5 percent from September, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. Employment updates for November are expected later this month.

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New residents who stop by the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce still receive welcome packets with housing and demographic profiles, including the Chamber’s Images magazine, and the real estate guide published by the Vicksburg-Warren County Board of REALTORS.

“The housing market is strong-er than the rental market,” said executive director Christi Kilroy, adding word of mouth outpaces such web-based resources as Craigslist. A check of the listing service showed 58 items posted since Oct. 23 that detail homes for sale, rental units available or rental arrangements sought.

Kilroy used rental property owned by her husband as an example.

“Jay and I have never advertised,” Kilroy said. “Word of mouth is popular.”

Industry listing services showed median home prices for most of Vicksburg and Warren County had fallen during the first half of 2011, to $134,815 from $135,966 during 2010.

“It always comes back to the same conversation — how do we improve housing and how do we improve schools,” Kilroy said.

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Duran Swinford said there’s good news.

An education initiative of the Chamber and the VWSD, as well as the pace of general equivalency diplomas are the positives, she said.

“We have to improve our label, and we’ve done that this year,” Swinford said, pointing to 16 who have earned GEDs this year. The VWSD said 21 received the certificate during the 2010-11 school year.

The district maintained a lowered “Advised” accreditation status on an annual report for 2011 issued in October by the Mississippi Department of Education, which Swinford chalked up to two of the district’s 541.5 full-time teachers not having proper certification to teach core subjects. This year’s report showed a 34.9 percent dropout rate for the district, a figure Swinford expects to be “dramatically reduced” next year. Statewide, the dropout rate was 17 percent.

“We didn’t get here overnight — it took a series of years,” Swinford said. “I hope to get two to four more years to improve it.”

The Leader In Me program, based on author Stephen Covey’s books on effective leadership habits, is primed to “unleash the potential” of students at Bowmar, Bovina and Dana Road elementary schools, which have agreed to participate, Swinford said. A presentation on the initiative is planned Wednesday at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“Every child has leadership capacities,” Swinford said.