Businesses oppose I-10 connector

Published 9:49 pm Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kendra Bolling

Though some speculate an I-10 connector road would boost local economy, there are some local businesses that don’t agree.

The Pike County Commission approved in its last meeting to allow a group to do a feasibility study on the impacts of an I-10 connector toll road that would go from Montgomery to Panama City.

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But many of U.S. 231’s businesses are concerned the road would alleviate out of town business.

“I would be completely against the connector,” said Malissa Allen of Sante Fe Cattle Co. “Twenty percent of our business is out of town business, and that goes up during the summer. It’s usually about 25 to 30 percent the summer.”

Allen said when Troy University students go home for summer break, Santa Fe depends on the traffic from U.S.231 to help the business.

Santa Fe isn’t the only restaurant that could suffer from the bypass.

“We need business from other towns in order to thrive,” said Martin Esquivel, manager of La Parota Grill. “(The connector road) would take our business away.”

Still, local restaurants aren’t the only businesses that think the bypass would harm their revenues.

“I’d much rather have business than bypass,” said Megan Titmas, guest services manager at the Hampton Inn. “It may gain revenue for the city when they are building it, but it is going to almost eliminate our out of town business.”

According to Titmas, Hampton Inn often has people stop in on their way to the beach because they need a break from driving.

“It would be a hard hit if we lost that business,” Titmas said.

Even drug stores such as Walgreens are concerned with the impact the connector road would have on its business.

“A connector would not be good. We wouldn’t get the passing through traffic, and that would definitely make an impact on our revenue,” said Walgreens Manager Donna Delmain.

While, most businesses agree they would be affected if an I-10 connector road was built, Director of the Center for International Business and Economic Development Judson Edwards said that may not be the case.

In the short term Pike County could lose some businesses, he said, but there are some benefits to it, too.

“All of the businesses that are dependent on traffic versus the local market would be hurt by a local bypass,” Edwards said. “But, it’s not any different that when the 231 bypass was created.”

“It shouldn’t hurt many of the restaurants because they are based on the existing market,” Edwards said.

Edwards said he thinks that gas stations and locations that depend on truck traffic, such as Kangaroo would be hit hard.

“At businesses like the Kangaroo you see a lot of out of town tags,” Edwards said. “And a lot of fast food restaurants do during peak traffic (season).”

On the plus side, Edwards said one of the problems with 231 right now is the bottleneck it creates in truck traffic.

“It would be beneficial for the traffic flow,” he said. “Trucks wouldn’t have to go through the stop and go at the red lights. We’d probably see a lot of smiling faces because they wouldn’t have to fight off 18-wheelers.”

Another positive effect would be the opportunity for more industrial growth.

“Industrial recruitment (is a big deal) anytime you have the potential to locate near an interstate highway,” Edwards said.

Anna Green contributed to the article.