This past fall, Blake Wilson and the Mississippi Economic Council decided to find out what was on the minds of the state’s business leaders.
After holding a successful November business issues forum in Jackson, Wilson, the MEC’s president, teamed up with the GodwinGroup, one of Mississippi’s leading advertising and research firms, to launch a study of the hopes, fears and key concerns of business folks from Southaven to Pascagoula.
The survey was designed to serve as a benchmark for Mississippi business. A random sample was taken but structured to reflect the overall characteristics of businesses in the state. A total of 351 interviews were completed with individuals identified as business owners, CEOs, presidents or managing partners. All interviews were conducted between Dec. 15, 1998 and Jan. 10, 1999.
The results of the process, The Economic State of the State, were released last week at an under-the-Capitol-dome press conference.
Not surprisingly, education topped the list of concerns: 46% of Mississippi business leaders see education as the key issue for the state overall; 30% see it as the key issue for businesses; 62% see the task of finding qualified employees as their biggest business challenge. Quite simply, business leaders need workers educationally-prepared and trained. This is especially critical as the state’s economy loses unskilled jobs and skilled positions become available through successful economic development.
Almost every business leader participating in the study was aware that Mississippi’s employee training funds are not consolidated in one agency. A majority of 54% think that future training dollars and programs should be administered by one agency; 37% are opposed; 9% are undecided.
Other critical issues include an adequate transportation infrastructure and access; government regulation and paperwork; insurance availability and cost; and taxes.
There are a number of monumental issues Mississippi faces if our economic renaissance is to continue. We are confident that Wilson, the MEC and Mississippi business will be ready for those challenges and be willing to work hard for every Mississippian’s future.