194 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI BIO SOIL ENHANCERS, INC. Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc. (BESI), is headquartered in Hattiesburg. The production facility consists of specialized laboratories, blending operations, and biological testing equipment. BESI’s marketing, accounting, and administrative business operations are located adjacent to the manufacturing plant. BESI employs molecular microbiologists, environmental scientists, arborists, foresters, independent contractors, and agronomists. Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc., has increased international exports by 189 percent since 2015. PHOTOS COURTESY OF BIO SOIL ENHANCERS, INC. 2010 one-half of the Pine Belt’s residents lived in three counties: Forrest, Jones, and Lamar. Lamar County, ranked tenth out of the thirteen Piney Woods counties in population in 1950, saw its population increase dramatically over the next sixty years and in 2010 was the third most populous county in the Pine Belt with over 55,000 residents. Forrest County also continued to grow and was the most populous county in the Piney Woods in 2010, closely followed by Jones. Outside of Hattiesburg and the suburb of Petal, the larger towns of the Piney Woods stagnated between 1970 and 2010. The most populous towns in the area in 2010 were: Hattiesburg (45,989), Laurel (18,540), McComb (12,790), Brookhaven (12,513), and Petal (10,454). Laurel’s population declined from a high of 27,889 in 1960 to 18,540 in 2010, although Jones County grew in population during the same time period as many residents moved from the city into the unincorporated suburbs. McComb entered a cycle which saw the population grow in 1960, 1980, and 2000 but decline in 1970, 1990, and 2010. Brookhaven grew moderately in 1970 and 1980, lost population in 1990 and 2000, and saw a 25 percent population growth in 2010. The fifth largest city in the Piney Woods in 2010 was Petal, originally a Hattiesburg suburb incorporated in 1974. The early efforts by Hugh White to Balance Agriculture with Industry proved helpful to a number of Mississippians, and in 1965 the number of industrial workers in the state finally exceeded the number of those engaged in agriculture. Textile firms such as Reliance and Movie Star opened sewing plants in cities big and small. Columbia, Hattiesburg, and Laurel boasted Reliance plants, while the smaller Lamar County towns of Lumberton, Purvis, and Sumrall saw women go to work at Movie Star in significant numbers. The wage labor positions offered in these facilities were often low paying, but the income they generated was important to many families. After 1980, the garment factories increasingly suffered from international competition and began to close their doors. The timber industry remained important to the region, with large timber firms such as Weyerhaeuser and International Paper locating in the Piney Woods. Diversification of industry in Jones County is represented by Howard Industries. Founded in Laurel in 1968 by Billy Howard to produce transformers, the company greatly expanded its operations to produce ballasts and technology products and had an over-the-road transportation division. Howard Industries in 2015 employed over 3,500 people in Jones County, making it the largest employer in the county. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, major nationwide retail chains located to the major cities of the region, including Brookhaven, McComb, Hattiesburg, and Laurel, making them regional shopping centers for the Pine