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A Mississippi Business Journal Q&A

Musgrove: Objective is to improve investment opportunities

On Aug. 7, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove unveiled “The Advantage Mississippi Initiative,” Mississippi’s proposed new economic development plan if legislators approve it in a special session called for Aug. 28.

The governor’s comprehensive plan focuses on six issues — education, transportation, incentives, local leadership, state government accountability, and knowledge-based resources — identified by business leaders across the state in meetings sponsored by the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development and Mississippi Economic Council. Musgrove spent a few minutes reviewing some of the highlights of the plan with the Mississippi Business Journal.

Mississippi Business Journal: Have legislators pledged their support of the plan?

Ronnie Musgrove: The leadership of the House and Senate has reviewed the plan and is very positive about economic development in our state. I believe the Legislature will pass and put on my desk the new plan.

MBJ: How will the many points of the plan be prioritized?

RM: Every one of the plan’s points will be priority. ASAP. I am impatient for prosperity.

MBJ: How long will it take to implement the plan?

RM: We will have every part of the plan in place by Jan. 1, 2001.

MBJ: Some business leaders may see the plan as joining disjointed agencies and organizations to create a more efficient operation. But others may see it as a very bureaucratic undertaking. How would you answer those critics?

RM: In order to be competitive, we have to be flexible. In today’s new economy, it is borderless and it is seamless. It is important to create a positive business climate for investment in Mississippi. In those areas where government has a role, we need to be efficient and effective. By combining the resources of various agencies, we’re able to be more responsive and accountable to business and industry and to our people.

MBJ: How valuable was J.C. Burns’ tour in gathering data for this plan, and how well received has he been in the business community of the state?

RM: Very valuable, and very well received.

MBJ: What can we do to de-politicize economic development in Mississippi, or is it something that is inescapable?

RM: Our objective is to improve opportunities for investment and better paying jobs. This is where my concentration has been and will be.

MBJ: The proposed Delta Regional Commission was not mentioned in the Advantage Mississippi Initiative. How would it fit into the plan?

RM: Our plan has a focus on urban and rural, prosperous and economically challenged areas. It has a broad scope and is comprehensive. The creation of the Delta Regional Commission would provide a better delivery of services to the Delta.

MBJ: Will the community colleges be the workforce trainers of the state?

RM: Yes.

MBJ: Will the curriculums in the secondary and high school levels, which are reportedly not in sync with employer needs, be re-evaluated?

RM: The main focus for this approach is to work with the state department of education and the labor board of education, making sure the curriculum in our high schools offers what business and industry need.

MBJ: Will the task force consisting of the Department of Human Services, the state’s development authority, the Mississippi Employment Securities Commission, the state’s community and junior colleges and other workforce training delivery systems be in lieu of, or a stepping stone, to a proposed state department of labor?

RM: No. It is to maximize our training dollars because every one of those entities has training dollars and can be used to train our people.

MBJ: Who will administer the proposed Leadership Training Scholarship Fund, a privately funded leadership training scholarship fund that would provide need-based scholarships to current and future civic leaders who would benefit from participating in leadership training programs? Perhaps the Mississippi Economic Council, which already has a long-established leadership program in place?

RM: No, we have not designated who it will be administered through. It could be the public-private partnership. That has yet to be determined.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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