Iuka, Mississippi early 80’s:
This sleepy little town is settled in the North-East quadrant of Mississippi. A shirt and shoe factory passes for industry in this small town. People drive from Alabama to labor in these factories. It is a simple life, but a happy life. However, this town is experiencing a boom, the federal government has promised to bring in a nuclear reactor! Jobs are promised, a life of prosperity is envisioned, and a bright future is on the horizon. The Yellow Creek nuclear plant is going to make life better! By 1985, the project is dead, and the envisioned prosperity is a pipe dream.
Iuka, late 80’s:
NASA has decided to move into Iuka to develop new solid rockets for their spacecraft. Once again, Iuka is the site chosen for this project. Again, the promise of prosperity is envisioned. A sign hangs outside of a convenience store that reads: Will the last person out of Iuka please turn out the lights?” Money begins to flow into the town again. Promised jobs and a bright future looms on the horizon. The town is abuzz with excitement due to the promise of security and revenue. Prices skyrocket and people do not mind because the future is bright. Locals provide the unskilled labor and life is good. Communities are planned, homes are built, new cars and boats are purchased. Engineers and scientist from all over America moves into the sleepy town. 1.5 billion dollars is invested by NASA. In 1993, the funding is killed, and the project dies at 80% complete. Once again, the residents of Iuka is left holding the bag.
Twice this town has been promised a bright future, and twice the federal government has pulled the carpet out from under the residents of this town. This town is evidence of the out of control wastefulness of the government. The buildings that were meant to house NASA and their rockets now sit idle. One and a half billion dollars later there is nothing to show for the money invested. What was meant to be a game changer for the northern part of Mississippi is nothing more than a painful memory of what should have been. The entire fiasco is nothing more than a failure to launch.
What is the future for this small town? It has been labeled “a retirement community.” History is part of this town; Civil War battles were fought in this area. However, the opportunity to be brought into the modern age has been torn from the fingers of the people of Iuka. As time passes by, bitterness has seeped into the perspective of those that live here. The adage that seems to fit this situation is this: Don’t count your chickens until they’ve hatched. Residents of Iuka can attest to this fact. This small community is still attempting to recover from promises of the federal government that failed to launch them into prosperity. One waits with bated breath to see what the future holds for the residents of this small town.