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Candidates must address critical economic issues

MBJ Editorial

The field has been set for the 1999 Mississippi gubernatorial race. A full slate of Republicans and Democrats met the March 1 qualifying deadline for the state’s top office. Heated primary battles are expected. There are a number of issues that each of these candidates must address if they want support from the Mississippi business community.

Last week, the Mississippi Business Journal queried a number of small business, development, community and government leaders to find out what they think the top economic issues in the state are. Their insights should spark many conversations about what is and is not important when it comes to Mississippi’s economic future. Here are a few of their thoughts:

• What is the governor’s role in economic development? “Bully pulpit” is not an answer.

• Have an outline for economic development. Don’t just say you’re for it. What are you going to do about it?

• Casinos are exercising more and more political clout. Are we overemphasizing those jobs to the detriment of others — and our environment?

• What is the role of education in economic development?

• Why do we place so much emphasis on “attracting” business and industry and not on “growing” business and industry? We need to look at how to develop the entrepreneurial and creative business skills of our people. That will allow us to create jobs, grow our economy and increase the wealth of our people — not just work for and create wealth for out-of-state corporations.

• What changes, if any, need to be made to the Department of Economic and Community Development? How does the agency spend its money?

• What is the net gain — or loss — of manufacturing jobs in Mississippi? We hear big announcements about plant openings and expansions — sometimes with less than 20 jobs. What do the net facts say?

• How can Mississippi translate its recent economic success into concrete investment in the economic infrastructure of the state to ensure that we enjoy that same prosperity, on an increased level, in the future?

Interesting points, but will the candidates pay attention? We hope they do. And to continue this dialogue, let us hear from you. It should be another exciting political season in Mississippi.

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