We should take a long, hard look at the statistics in this edition.
First and foremost, let’s take a look at Mississippi’s rankings by category from Chief Executive magazine, which ranked our state 30th overall in the nation in its list for “Best States for Jobs and Business Growth.”
On the positive side, we were 15th overall in workforce and 17th in cost of business.
So, we have done a good job of luring business here with inexpensive labor and a relatively inexpensive way to do business.
But where business is concerned in Mississippi, the bottom line comes down to a couple of subjects we have to start pushing as our leading economic indicators — education and healthcare.
In education and quality of life, Mississippi ranks 50th and 48th, respectively in Chief Executive magazine’s lists.
Part of what they consider quality of life is healthcare, and Mississippi continues to be the epicenter for heart disease, obesity and diabetes in the United States. We have to turn this around if we want to be a real player when it comes to attracting business.
Secondly, education is still a thorn in our side. We have been talking and talking and talking about it for more than 40 years. Yet, when it comes to doing something, we patch and patch and patch.
Last week, Mississippi lawmakers proposed a few more patches by suggesting the state should issue more than $282 million in bonds to pay for big public projects.
The bill includes $35 million for universities, $12 million for community colleges and $20 million for local bridge replacement. It also has $12 million for the state Crime Lab and $3 million for the Port of Greenville, and millions for museums, zoos, fire trucks and other items.
That is a lot of money, but money, as we know, isn’t the only thing that will make education better.
Improving education has to be the No. 1 priority for every legislator every year.
While it is great for Mississippi to have jumped 15 spots on the “Best and Worst States for Jobs and Business Growth,” think about how far up the ladder we would have climbed if we have moved up 15 places in the education and quality of life categories.
Labor force conditions for the state changed very little between January and February, with the unemployment rate inching downward one-tenth of a point. Mississippi’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went from 9.3 percent in January to 9.2 percent in February. The February 2009 rate was higher than one year ago when the rate was 5.9 percent. The nation’s unemployment rate increased over the month from 8.5 to 8.9 percent for February and was elevated significantly when compared to the year ago rate of 5.2 percent.
Lamar and Rankin Counties posted the lowest unemployment rate for the month of February at 6.0 percent followed by Lafayette County at 6.3 percent. Fifty-seven counties showed either rate decreases or no change. Forty-seven counties reported double-digit rates for the month with nine counties reporting rates greater than or equal to 15.0 percent.
Contact MBJ managing editor Ross Reily at email@example.com.