The old Wal-Mart store at Bonita is now long gone and the new Sam's Club is a beehive of trucks and construction employees. The building is going up rapidly in preparation for a late summer or early fall opening.
The next step will be hiring 130 employees to staff Meridian's Sam's Club. The company has rented an office for that purpose in the East Gate Shopping Center on Highway 39. The company will begin accepting applications June 2.
"Well, first of all we're so impressed with the construction schedule. No doubt they're on schedule to have their grand opening Sept. 2. We're impressed with the impact it will have on our economy, the 130 new jobs, the retail sales tax collections that will come as a result of that," said Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation.
"It just further points to the fact that Meridian and Lauderdale County are the center for retail trade for east Mississippi and west Alabama," Jones said.
But the economic developer says this step forward is not the last we'll see here.
"Much as we started off with the development of the mall in 1997. As you recall, we experienced more building permits in the following year the mall was built," Jones said. "I think you will see additional development because people will come from further distances to trade at Sam's and also shop at our mall and promote other development."
The new Sam's will feature both frozen and fresh foods. It will also have a gasoline station.
Sam's is the nation's largest member's only warehouse club with more than 46 million members. Members pay a yearly fee to join, which then allows them to shop the store. Total overall annual sales at the 500 Sam's stores in the U.S. exceed $29 billion.