A story about the possibility of another Japanese automaker taking a look at Mississippi for an assembly plant has been making its way around the state.
Details, as they usually are with stories like this one, are sketchy. This situation takes us to an important question: Is such speculation good for economic development?
There is an important difference between public and press scrutiny and deal-killing speculation and rumormongering.
Secrecy is how the economic development game is played for now, and it’s a game Mississippi must play well. Thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past few, short years, and it is vital for us to develop new opportunities and to take care of the employers already here.
We can take care of existing businesses with:
• meaningful tort reform;
• incentives to prosper, grow and expand;
• minimizing obstacles to success.
And we can stay in the site selection game by:
• improving workforce skills and education;
• developing competitive, but reasonable, economic incentive packages;
• fostering cooperation among economic developers, elected officials and business and industry leaders without regard to traditional geographic biases and barriers.
And possibly, just possibly, keeping our mouths shut about the next big deal. Why? Because you just never know who’s listening — or reading — and what they might do with it.
Thousands of Mississippians have worked tirelessly to promote our state as a good place to do business. That good reputation has been slipping away as more attention is paid to our problems with jackpot justice, trial lawyers and medical malpractice insurance, along with WorldCom’s woes, but it’s not too late to turn the tide.
Mississippi is a great place to do business, and it’s up to all of us to see that it stays that way.