Exchange-DeSoto Population

Silo Square development in Southaven, Miss. on April 27. [JOE RONDONE/THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL VIA AP]

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Telesa Wright grew up in DeSoto County. As an adult, she lived near Los Angeles in South Orange County for eight years after marrying her husband. Eventually, she wanted to leave California and, when choosing where to go, Googled "best places to raise a family in America."

"And Olive Branch came up," Wright said, laughing. "I was like 'are they freaking kidding, there is absolutely nothing there.' Because that's what I remembered, nothing. It's like this is not even the place I grew up."

Between 2010 and 2020, DeSoto County was the third-fastest growing county in Mississippi and had a 14.9% population increase. The population boom mirrored a drastic increase in new development.

Brian Hill also grew up in DeSoto County. As a child in Southaven, Hill remembers, to get to Olive Branch, you had to take Goodman Road, which was gravel. Getwell Road was nonexistent. Now, Hill is the man behind Silo Square, a $200 million mixed-use development being built in Southaven off Getwell.

"They come here because of the growth, they come here because of the possibilities and the opportunities and the amount of rooftops that are being developed in this area," Hill said about the commercial growth in Southaven. "It's just a prime commercial corridor, where Silo is."

Hill has wanted to build something similar to Silo Square since before the 2008 recession but was stuck waiting for the perfect opportunity and location. In 2017, Hill started working on Silo Square again, bought the property, and in 2018 started development.

Watching the development and population growth in Southaven, both through developing Silo Square and through building homes, Hill said has been "amazing."

What attracts people to DeSoto and Hernando?

Ben Piper, an alderman in Hernando, believes that people are coming to DeSoto and to Hernando due to the attraction of living in a smaller town with good schools while still being able to work in Memphis and the surrounding area.

"You're able to live here, work there," Piper said.

In the next few years, there will be an Associated Wholesale Grocers warehouse opening in Hernando that Piper expects will bring at least 600 jobs. There will also be a multi-sport indoor practice facility called the Fieldhouse opening off of Green T Road.

The Cascades in Olive Branch, another mixed-use development in DeSoto County, broke ground several weeks ago.

With more development came a bigger population. In an email sent to Hernando Schools parents on Wednesday, a graphic states that a new high school Hernando is being built to "address increasing enrollment in Hernando schools and to prepare for future growth."

"My kids are eight, five and three," Piper said. "I know that they have close to 400 kids per grade at that level so you project that out and your talking 1500 to 1600 kids at a high school one day that now probably holds 1200 or 1300."

Melissa Cookston, owner of Memphis Barbeque Co. in Horn Lake, has noticed the effect of the population growth on her restaurant as well.

"We have been up in sales every year since we opened 10 years ago," Cookston said.

The exception to this growth was 2020 due to the pandemic. Cookston partly attributes this success to population growth.

Cookston has lived in DeSoto since the mid-1980s and said she is "so proud" of the growth the county has seen.

Wright and her husband moved back to DeSoto and opened Wright Team & Associates, a real estate business. It was a challenging decision, Wright said, because she couldn't visualize liking living in DeSoto and selling real estate in the county. But she is so happy they decided to do it.

"It has been crazy," Wright said about the growth in the area. "I'm so glad we came when we came, because we often compare this market to the California market. How fast it's growing, how competitive it's been, especially this past summer. I've never seen such a competitive market that was leaning more towards sellers market the way it was."

For every individual deal Wright Team & Associates makes, they plan on donating 10 percent of the profits to their client's charity of choice. If their clients do not have a charity they feel personally about, Wright can make recommendations.

"Just to give back to the community," Wright said. "I think it's really important to do that."

Wright is excited about the direction she sees Olive Branch and DeSoto moving toward.

"GOBankingRate says (Olive Branch) is going to be one of the places that you can't afford to live in, in five years," Wright said. "If that is true, then I'm looking forward to more of a luxury market. I'm looking forward to the restaurants and a possible night life, for the younger people that are moving away for that reason. I'm looking forward to, just overall, what they're doing in the city."

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