THE CAPITAL AREA 243 unit, a pediatric department, a nursery, and ten operating rooms. It was built on the former location of the antiquated state asylum, a siting that symbolized the full evolution of Jackson into the state’s center of politics, healthcare, and economy. Once the Jackson medical center opened, the two-year medical school at the Oxford campus of the University of Mississippi moved to the capital city, and the old charity hospital in Jackson closed. In 1963, the University of Mississippi Medical Center made history when Dr. James Hardy performed the first lung transplant. The Capital Area Today Since the selection of Jackson as the capital city in 1821, the Capital Area and its residents have seen tremendous growth and change. Once rural farmland, Hinds and its surrounding counties have become a mix of urban, suburban, and rural populations. Although Jackson was initially slow to grow, it now serves as the hub of politics, education, healthcare, and commerce in Mississippi. Economic growth, especially in Hinds, Rankin, and Madison counties, has been especially notable. Perhaps one of the most robust industries to bring jobs and revenue to the Capital Area has been the auto industry. In 2003, Nissan entered into talks with the state of Mississippi to open a plant in Madison County in the small town of Canton. Both a groundbreaking and historic moment for Canton, the plant brought automotive production to Mississippi for the first time. The Nissan plant has become an economic force and paved the way for more automotive plants in other parts of the state. Today, it employs more than 6,000 people from 61 of the state’s 82 counties. In addition to this impressive employee count, Nissan has also contributed more than $11 million to local causes as part of its commitment to central Mississippi. Nissan is also a supporter of education, having granted more than $430,000 in full tuition as well as funding over forty education initiatives impacting the lives of area residents. Rankin County is also becoming a focal point for corporate businesses and retailers. In fall 2013, the Outlets of Mississippi, noted as the largest and most diverse outlet in the area, opened in Rankin County. The shopping center has 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. It also houses more than eighty stores ranging from designer brands to body shops. Because of significant growth and development, Rankin County’s population is increasing as people are searching for city conveniences in a small-town environment. Rankin County has one of the highest average household incomes in Mississippi, a robust population growth, and it currently maintains the lowest unemployment in the state. In Simpson County, one recent economic success story is a family-owned business that has been in existence since 1969. In 1974, John Polk purchased Polk’s Meat Product from his parents and has built upon its early accomplishments. In May 2000, Polk’s built a state of the art facility in Magee to carry the family business into the new millennium and has increased its production by five times. Since that time, John Polk has been able to merge other companies in the family brand after buying out Hickory Hollow Farms and Magnolia Brand labels. In 2001, Polk’s daughter, Julie Polk Breazeale, assumed the role of CEO. Under her leadership, Polk’s grew to be the largest smoked meat processor in the state of Mississippi with plans to expand into new markets nationwide. Sanderson Farms, a poultry processing company in Laurel, was incorporated in 1955 and opened a plant in Hazlehurst in 1961. Since that time, Sanderson Farms has become a national stock exchange company and has been successful in merging other companies under its umbrella. It has redefined the chicken processing industry, and as a result it has seen tremendous growth. Now head- quartered out of the Pine Belt, Sanderson Farms processes 10.625 million chickens per week and has annual sales of more than $2.8 billion. Fred Adams started his egg farm in Bolton, Cal-Maine Foods, which now represents around 23 percent of all egg shell consumption in the country. The history of the Capital Area reflects the complexities of the state, its people, and its legacy of growth and struggle. At times its six counties has accurately reflected the climate of politics, economy, and culture that defined other parts of the state. The diversity of people and economies that have defined the area make it a microcosm of the entire state. Although Jackson was initially slow to grow, it now serves as the hub of politics, education, healthcare, and commerce in Mississippi. Economic growth, especially in Hinds, Rankin, and Madison counties, has been especially notable.