In a recent conversation with John Scott, tax partner and board member for HORNE LLP, we talked about some of the changes that are on the horizon for Mississippi businesses of all sizes in the coming months and years.
As Mississippi’s largest CPA firm, HORNE has offices in Mississippi (headquarters), Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas. In addition, the firm has clients in all 50 states, so the scope of its operations is broad. The company recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and is presently focused on growing its business within all of its current operating areas, which Scott calls “organic growth”
With 475 employees, the company feels that it has the resources to handle the needs of large and small business alike.
Among other industries, Scott told us that HORNE works with clients in construction, health care, banking, agribusiness, telecommunications, insurance, and others. Scott, who grew up in Starkville and graduated from Mississippi State in 1982, initially worked for Big 4 accounting firms before joining HORNE, where he has served for the past 11 years, and now can’t imagine working anywhere else. He suggested that the company’s “people, expertise, community support, and culture” are the key drivers that have helped to bring HORNE to their current status as Mississippi’s largest CPA firm.
What does the company like about doing business in Mississippi?
“Well, we certainly recognize that Mississippi has a positive business climate, with lower taxes on business, and government that is willing to work to help grow business and bring good jobs to the state,” he said. “And we certainly think Mississippi has a strong work force with good work ethic.”
He also points to a “strong University system”, with one of the best community college systems in the South.
“Mississippi also has a great mix of low-cost energy assets,” he said, pointing to natural gas, coal, oil, and other resources as key to Mississippi’s long-term growth prospects.
Asked what he considers the brightest opportunities for that long-term growth, Scott pointed to the growing movement to “reshore”…that is, to bring both light and heavy manufacturing back from overseas to the United States. He believes Mississippi is “uniquely positioned” to capitalize on that trend.
“There are also many new opportunities in energy, agribusiness (particularly in grains and beans), health care, and other areas,” he said.
What does the state need to do better in order to capitalize on those kinds of opportunities?
“Clearly, we need to aggressively compete with other states for business, such as Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama,” he said. “Those states are raising the bar on their marketing efforts, while we have not made the commitment to fully fund the effort in Mississippi.”
He also suggested that the state should “assess our tax structure for the long term….to make it as efficient as possible.”
He believes an important key is education, and sees great opportunities particularly in developing an “improved trade education system that will provide the skilled work force that manufacturers are looking for these days”.
While there are many positives, Scott also points to the prospect of “significant changes and challenges” on the horizon, mostly in the areas of federal regulation and taxation.
“I think you will continue to see an increase in federal taxes and regulation in the next several years,” he said. “There is a substantial need for tax reform, which should include decreasing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 28% to encourage new investment from business.”
Asked if he sees that on the near horizon, Scott suggested it will depend on whether the warring factions in Washington can come together and “begin the address the financial issues facing the nation.”
Among other things, Scott emphasized that the Affordable Care Act has provisions that are “going to impact many businesses beginning just a few months from now”. He believes that many senior managers are not fully cognizant on the potential impact of these new regulations on their businesses, and “the clock is ticking”, he said.
“In fact, a lot of the new rules and regs are not yet even written, or if they are, no one has seen them yet,” he said. “That makes planning rather difficult”.
Whatever is coming down the road in that regard, Scott feels highly confident that Horne is positioned to help its clients meet those challenges.
“After all,” he concluded, “great people make great businesses. And great people is what we’re all about.”
Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.
>>MBJ-TV John Scott talks with Alan Turner about Mississippi’s energy, agriculture and high-tech infrastructure.