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As I See It

Holidays a time to celebrate what’s really important

Since we will publish our annual Book of Lists December 26th, this issue is my last opportunity to write a column for 2005. With this week’s edition, we take a look back at a few of the business headlines of 2005, as well as anticipate a few of the important stories likely to unfold in 2006.

Every year is unique and this one was certainly no exception.

Interest rates climbed steadily throughout the year. The economy also grew steadily and predictions are for a strong economy in 2006. Even with interest rates rising the stock market woke up from its long nap during the last half of the year and, again, predictions are for a good market next year.

The housing bubble has just about played out and the steady increases in house prices will likely tone down a bit for 2006.

We know that these good economic times can’t last forever but we sure are enjoying them while they’re here.

Undoubtedly, Hurricane Katrina won the prize for most significant event in 2005. Our state has been devastated and will require years and years to fully recover from the destruction. Thousands and thousands of our fellow Mississippians are struggling to regain their footing as the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast begins the slow process of regeneration. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who have lost so much.

The controversy over insurance coverage is making a bad situation worse. The hair-splitting over whether the damage was caused by wind or water and in what order the damage occurred has created a really sorry state of affairs. If we’ve learned anything from Katrina it is that insurance coverage should be comprehensive and pay benefits if the property is destroyed from any cause whatever. I think we’re also coming to grips with the importance of adopting and enforcing building codes, particularly in storm-prone areas.

Gov. Haley Barbour easily wins the prize for leadership with his calm, reassuring presence following Katrina. Notwithstanding the age-old question of whether events or personalities produce greatness, Katrina gave Gov. Barbour a platform and he responded to the challenge. I can’t think of anyone who could have handled the situation any better.

The unfortunate silver lining to the Katrina dark cloud will be the biggest construction boom since the casino building frenzy of the mid-1990s. It will take years of work to rebuild the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Learning the construction trade and participating in the work offers a ray of hope to many who have lost their jobs and need to begin a new career.

Our state budget was tight already and Katrina dealt our state’s finances a crushing blow. Municipalities in the coastal area have continuing costs to maintain basic services during a time when their tax base has been wiped out. At the state level, gaming taxes brought in about $350-million a year and that industry is largely out of commission for some time to come. We’ll get by, but times are going to be tough for awhile.

Ah, it’s the Christmas season once again. In spite of the problems we’re facing it’s time to experience the magic of Christmas. Everywhere, houses and offices are decorated and everyone is in a festive mood. And that’s as it should be. For even though tragedy has visited our state, God’s plan for our salvation is steadily unfolding. It is only right that we pause amongst the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the spirit of Christmas this year, the Mississippi Business Journal dispensed with the annual hams for employees program and adopted a needy family. Each department took a family member and we bought presents for them instead of spending money on ourselves. Though this is our first year to adopt a family I think it’s safe to say that a tradition has been started that will likely continue for years to come.

Many of us will be winding down work in the next few days. Then it will be holiday traveling for some, staying close to home for others, and deer hunting for those of us who aren’t happy unless we’re wet and cold. Nonetheless, we’ll back the first of the year and begin anew for another year.

To me, Christmas and Easter are the two most important dates on the calendar. Both remind us of what is really important in life and help us rise above the trivial problems that plague our everyday lives. To all of our readers, we hope for you and yours the happiest of holidays and, as politically incorrect as it might be, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thought for the Moment

But the angels said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. ” — Luke 2:10

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.


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