“I like having everything at my fingertips,” Kenneth Johnson says about Jackson.As the director of leasing for the redevelopment of the Jackson Square Outlet Mall, the 26-year-old is dedicated to creating even more options for Jacksonians.

“Jackson doesn’t have a lot of cookie-cutter shops. Once you’ve been to one Best Buy, you’ve been to them all. Once you’ve shopped at one Belk, you’ve shopped at them all,” Johnson says.

“Jackson’s got a lot of really different, unique and interesting places that the suburbs don’t have.”

The south Jackson resident, who graduated from Pearl High School, has had an interest in business since he was a child.

“I’m a ’90s kid. I grew up back in south Jackson by Metrocenter Mall when Jackson was thriving, (and) places like Metrocenter were thriving. Jackson, especially south Jackson, had life back then, and I want to get that life back,” he says.

For Johnson, giving life back to Jackson includes reviving the Terry Road area where the Jackson Square Outlet Mall has struggled with crime and vacancy for several years.

“It’s always really interested me, taking a building that doesn’t have any life and giving it life. A lot of these buildings were boarded up and are caving in, and some days we wonder why we’re doing this, but we’re not going to quit because I want to see Jackson come back. South Jackson is part of Jackson, too. I think it deserves as much as anywhere else does.” Johnson says.

Johnson attended Hinds Community College and holds a bachelor’s in business from the University of Phoenix. He opened a gas station in Pearl in 2005 and “made it boom.” He says he wants to make Jackson steal the thunder of its surrounding suburbs.

“I want to make the capital city a destination city,” he says.

“I want people to be able to come to Jackson and say, ‘I went to Jackson, and I liked it, and it was a lot of fun’, not ‘I went to Jackson, and there wasn’t much to do, so I went shopping in the suburbs.’ I want people to come to Jackson, stay in Jackson and enjoy Jackson.”

By leasing space in the shopping center to new tenants, Johnson hopes to bring vital businesses to the area, including a supermarket, which south Jackson currently lacks. Johnson hopes the mall will feature a diverse mixture of shops including department stores, food stores, local shops, national chains and “mom and pop” stores.

“I’m dedicated to making a difference based on where I’m at,” he says.

“This is where I’m from, and I’m starting with my home base.”

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