All economic development was not created equal. In light of this fact, the Mississippi business community — for the most part — took last week’s news that the New Orleans Saints might be one step closer to moving to the Magnolia State with a healthy dose of skepticism.
The breakdown in negotiations between Saints’ owner Tom Benson and the State of Louisiana about a new stadium excited the football team’s Mississippi fans, and sportscasters, writers and talk radio entertained a number of enthusiastic “What if…?” scenarios. Of course, the reality of the situation is much more complicated — and not as much fun.
Mississippi is a state struggling under the weight of fiscal responsibilities and diminished tax revenue. Programs and services are being cut, and it is likely that state personnel will not escape attention as budget funds dwindle midway through the fiscal year. Important business concerns like public education, highway and bridge projects and workforce training are threatened by this fiscal situation the state faces.
Any deal that would lure the Saints to the Coast would cost Mississippi taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis indicates that pro sports teams are not always great deals for public investment. A new stadium, training facility, tax abatements and other incentives needed to land the NFL franchise would come at the expense of other, more worthwhile and profitable, economic development projects that would benefit all of the state.
Having the Saints in Mississippi might sound like a sweet deal, but in fact, we couldn’t come close to paying for it.
And we shouldn’t.
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