Speakers address energy, education and health
JACKSON – Members of the business community gathered at the Marriott hotel in Jackson today to hear Gov.-elect Phil Bryant’s agenda for economic development and the details of Blueprint Mississippi, a report on improving the state’s economic health that is sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) and other groups.
Bryant assured the crowd at “A Capital Day” that he would not rest in the shadow of outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour’s legacy but would work to move the state forward. Bryant will continue Barbour’s “more of it” energy policy, citing KiOR, a developing biofuels plant, and Mississippi Power Company’s clean coal plant under construction in Kemper County as examples of energy progress in the state.
Bryant, who appointed Mississippi business man Jim Barksdale to interim Mississippi Development Authority director yesterday, praised Barksdale as “one of the world’s most successful, dedicated and hardworking entrepreneurs.” Because of his appointment, Bryant said people all over the nation are saying, “Now [Mississippi] can do anything.”
A Jackson native, Barksdale is the former President and CEO of Netscape Communications Corp. who has also served as Chief Operating Officer of Federal Express Corp. He is a member of the board of directors for companies such as Time Warner, FedEx, and Sun Microsystems.
Bryant addressed the importance of educating Mississippi future workforce and mentioned dual enrollment programs, which would allow students to split their time between high and community college to learn trade skills.
Paul Lacoste, former professional football player and owner of Paul Lacoste Sports, got the crowd off its feet to assume an “athletic position” and run in place. Mississippians are “the biggest people on planet earth,” Lacoste said, offering statistics on the amount of health care money spent due to obesity. Lacoste said he is dedicated to fitness coach and encouraging Mississippians to take their fitness goals to the “next level.”
Blueprint Mississippi Chair and state Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds, along with MEC Director Blake Wilson chided those who dwell on negative statistics about the state.
Wilson emphatically said: “We do not own the franchise on failure … Let’s stop selling it.”
Wilson said research by Blueprint Mississippi shows the state has made incremental improvements in GDP, personal income growth and education. Regarding charter schools, Wilson said charter schools would not be a magic fix to education, but charter schools with excellent leaders could be another tool for progress.
He directed attendees to the website BlueprintMississippi.com, which contains a full report on how to grow the state economically.