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New New South

MBJ Editorial

In the 1880s, Henry Grady called for a “New South” — a region focused on the future, not dwelling on the bitter, destructive past. As a part-owner and managing editor, Grady helped build Atlanta’s Constitution into one of the most important newspapers in the South, and Grady became an eloquent and outspoken advocate for using industrialization to revitalize the Southern economy.

His call for industrialization as the path to economic development was suited for the turn-of-the-century South and worked for many communities until the 1970s and 1980s. Then jobs began to disappear. Moved offshore. Moved down south — to Mexico. Thousands of jobs have been lost in Mississippi.

Must be one of those “paradigm shifts.” And it is. Technology. 24/7.

It’s the “New New Thing,” to steal the title of Michael Lewis’ book on Jim Clark, who founded Silicon Graphics and co-founded Netscape with Mississippi native Jim Barksdale.

So, where is Mississippi in this shift, this brave new world? Moving in the right direction, but says Harvard business professor Michael Porter, “The business community in Mississippi must be on the same page. It can energize everything that’s done. A lot of what’s hampered the state in the past is not the lack of ideas, but the lack of follow through. Companies and associations here tend to be competitive, not collaborative.”

Porter revealed these thoughts, and the findings of a Mississippi telecom “cluster” feasibility study he lead, May 11 in Jackson. The research will be used by Mississippi Technology Inc. to set its agenda for high-tech economic development.

We believe that the state’s move to a “New New South” economy, one grounded in technology, will pave the way to better and brighter futures for many Mississippians.

And perhaps, if we do follow through, we’ll continue to build communities of “sunshine everywhere and all the time,” as Henry Grady envisioned so many decades ago.

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