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OPINION: Southwest Miss. in the loop?

Gov. Haley Barbour has mentioned on many occasions that Southwest Mississippi has “been left out” of the state’s industrial growth and should be a top priority in future efforts.

With that in mind, economic development officials and local and state elected leaders met at Lake Okhissa in Franklin County recently to learn more details about plans by the Southwest Partnership to attract a major new employer to Southwest Mississippi in the next 12 to 14 months.

The group heard presentations from the Mississippi Development Authority, Entergy Mississippi and the Southwest Partnership. Carol Johnson, president of Atlanta-based Continuous Dialog and a noted economic development consultant, was the featured guest speaker.

Southwest Mississippi neighbors are collaborating on a short-term economic development plan that seeks to recruit a new industry to the area by the end of 2010.

Southwest Mississippi Partnership president Cliff Brumfield said the group of 10 counties and their respective government and private business leaders have, through an extensive analysis, identified prospective industry types that would thrive in the area and are making plans to begin recruiting aggressively. The plan calls for a new industry to locate anywhere in the 10-county area in 18 months.

Barbour has been working on his end for several years to bring more industry to Southwest Mississippi, and it appears that work may have gained momentum.

While officials at the symposium did not identify one industry that might fit the bill, there is whispering the list of potential suitors may have been narrowed to as few as one.

According to a recent economic development report, Southwest Mississippi is a prime location for distribution hubs.

Southwest Mississippi has been hit particularly hard by dwindling industry and high unemployment long before news of a recession hit the rest of the country.

Because of that, Barbour has been the region’s biggest cheerleader where economic development is concerned.

Therefore, it’s difficult to believe the Southwest Partnership and Mississippi officials aren’t already in negotiations with a major industry about setting up shop, particularly since other major businesses like Entergy have attached their name to the search efforts.

Businesses like that rarely join in an major search effort unless they know what they are in for down the road.

Southwest Mississippi certainly needs the help.

Contact MBJ Managing Editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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