News of the indictment — and plea deal — of a central character in the Mississippi Beef Processors project received a mixed reaction in the state’s business community last week.
Many are not surprised that Richard N. Hall Jr. is going to prison for his role in the beef processing plant failure. Many are also now wondering where the ongoing investigation into the state-funded economic development failure is headed. Other indictments related to the $55-million disaster are possible.
There is little doubt that one of the most unfortunate outcomes of this debacle has been the tarnished reputation of economic development in the state. We suspect that many Mississippians now question the legitimacy of the process based on their understanding of the beef plant story. And that’s too bad considering the dedication and hard work of so many in the profession.
As federal investigators and state officials continue their investigation into this mess, we suggest that it is equally critical for those of us with a vested interest in economic development — and the state’s involvement in it — demand greater accountability and help make the distinctions between what happened with the beef plant and what’s going on with other projects.