JACKSON — Leaders from across the state are showing great confidence in the direction Mississippi is moving and in the ability to improve its economic competitiveness, according to the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC).
Surveyed during the MEC’s Blueprint Mississippi Pathway to Progress Tour, business and community leaders rate Mississippi as a newly emerging growth state, higher than any other category.
Over the past four months MEC traveled to 19 cities in all regions of Mississippi to get input on ways the state can continue along its pathway to progress. Though an electronic response process, the approximately 2,000 attendees were able to provide instant feedback on various issues. In addition to the more than 37 percent that view Mississippi as an emerging growth state, another 8 percent believe Mississippi has already become a hot economic development location.
Those participating in the voting were extremely optimistic about where Mississippi will be 10 years from now. Almost 38 percent see Mississippi becoming a hot economic development location, while another 34 percent say it will be an emerging growth state.
“The optimism really speaks to the opportunities that exist in Mississippi,” MEC president Blake Wilson said. “There is no doubt Mississippi has made great strides in the past 10 years, but when you look at where our leaders believe will be 10 years from now it tells you a bright future is ahead.”
In addition to providing feedback on specific topic areas, attendees were asked to share their thoughts on which goals of Blueprint Mississippi that should be the top priorities. Blueprint Mississippi, the state’s long-term strategic action plan was released in January 2012 with nine goals and 33 recommendations for accomplishing those goals.
Improving Mississippi’s economic competitiveness by providing a highly educated and well-trained workforce tops the list of Blueprint Mississippi priorities. “Increasing the Educational Achievement Level of Mississippians” finished as the top priority, receiving 20.6 percent of the vote, while “Cultivating a More Robust Workforce in Mississippi” earned 16 percent of the vote.
“When you think about it, education and workforce development go hand-in-hand,” Wilson said. “It is extremely important that we focus on ways to continue to prepare for the jobs of the future as Mississippi shifts from a low-wage, low-skill labor force to a labor force that requires more advanced skills. Combined, more than 36 percent place this as the top priority. It shows leaders from across to the state understand just how important it is to have a well-education, quality workforce.”
One of the ways to help achieve this goal is through strong career and technical curriculum in high school and 86 percent of participants view this as very important. Also, 85 percent believe it is either very important or somewhat important that Mississippi has common educational state standards (common core) to drive student performance.
Participants also weighed in strongly on infrastructure with 85 percent indicating that transportation infrastructure was very important to the future of economic development in the state. Almost as many, 81.5 percent, also expressed concerns about the condition of Mississippi’s roads ranking them only average to poor.
MEC uses input from the statewide tour to set priorities and determine its program of work for the upcoming year. “We appreciate the input of so many leaders from around our great state.” Wilson said, “We cannot be the ‘Voice of Business in Mississippi’ if we don’t take the time to listen closely to what is important to our members.”