Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Mississippi Manufacturers Association’

Ball State University report: Mississippi is fat and stupid

June 17th, 2011 3 comments

Mississippians are fat, stupid and doomed to low-wage, menial careers, according to a Ball State University report.

However, officials at the Mississippi Economic Council scoff at the findings, leading MEC president Blake Wilson to say, “I’m glad (they are) very safe behind (their) internet research perch.”

>>>SEE REPORT<<<

Michael Hicks, director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research, which conducted the study, told the Mississippi Business Journal that 4 out of 10 Mississippians are not going to be able to compete for jobs in the new manufacturing world, which depends greatly on mathematical skills and education.

“We’re in trouble. We are in big trouble,” admitted former Mississippi university and high school administrator Reggie Barnes.

The Ball State report graded all 50 states in several areas of the economy that support manufacturing and logistics. Mississippi ranked low in education, obesity and overall health, among other categories.

“Mississippi is a nice place,” Hicks said. “But the only jobs most people are going to get are shucking oysters and sweeping floors.”

Mississippi received an overall score of C+ for manufacturing and good grades in diversification and tax climate. However, failing grades in human capital and venture capital give Mississippi a dim economic future to look toward.

“Obviously, he has never been to Mississippi,” Wilson said. “That’s just a ridiculous statement. Anybody that knows anything about Mississippi knows we’ve got all kinds of high-tech employment.

“He’s probably looking at older data when he’s looking at that conclusion,” Wilson said. “And this is why we don’t take this kind of study very seriously. I mean it’s legitimate research. It’s just that it doesn’t mean a whole lot.”

But when asked about the MEC response, Hicks chuckled and said, “So, let me guess, the MEC is wanting to tell you that Mississippi is a great place and I am some Yankee that doesn’t know what he is talking about?

“To say that poor education is not holding back Mississippi from an economic perspective is to suggest your head is in the sand or a darker orifice,” he said.
One Mississippi expert acknowledges the downside of the report, and says this should be a wake up call to Mississippi leaders to make a change.

“An F on human capital? Ouch,” exclaims Mississippi College assistant professor of finance Nancy Anderson, who is also on the board of the Mississippi Council on Economic Education.

Anderson, however, noted that most southern states are similarly graded.
“Our lower grades are ‘fixable,’ with some effort,” Anderson said. “This seems to be a call for more investment in education, more funding for university research. The venture capital hurdle can even be cleared, with some help from the public sector.”

Mississippi officials — Including Jay Moon at the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and director of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Hank Bounds — were not available to the Mississippi Business Journal for an interview regarding this story.

“Some states, such as Indiana, have seen a real turnaround in manufacturing employment since the end of the recession (up 4.6 percent), while the nation as a whole has seen one in 50 manufacturing jobs lost,” Hicks says.

“Prior to the recession, business location and expansion decisions were almost wholly driven by the availability of skilled workers,” he says. “Today, that is far less a short term consideration, and tax rates, and concern about future tax increases due to high pension costs and other factors dominate business decisions to relocate.  So, states that emerge from this recession with a solid fiscal climate will tend to outperform those with uncertain balance sheets.”

That is good news for Mississippi in the short term.

“Haley Barbour will be glad to hear that,” Hicks said. “Mississippi will likely benefit for the near term because of its friendly tax laws and diversity of manufacturing. In the current recovery, states with good tax climates are going to do well.”

But in Mississippi, the real problem of education and healthcare “has not gone away,” Hicks said.

While Mississippi may be gaining cutting-edge manufacturing from the solar and green energy sector, there are few actual Mississippians who can take advantage of the new jobs. Therefore, the new jobs will likely go to people moving from other states, having little positive effect on the double-digit unemployment here.

Even if Mississippi gets all of the high-tech jobs on the plant, Mississippians, for the most part, aren’t going to be the people working there, Hicks explains. (Mississippians) are good people, but they lack the education to work in a real-world economy.

The other side is that because of the poor education and general health of the state (the fattest state in America), Hicks says the best applicants likely will never consider moving to Mississippi.

“That’s the problem,” Hicks says of the long-term economic future of Mississippi. And the positives from the tax climate and diversification don’t come close to making up for the downsides.

“(Mississippi) is just not going to get (the new and best) major manufacturing plants,” Hicks said. “(Mississippians without a proper education) are out of the mix.”

The problem is with 8th grade math scores. Mississippi is far behind the rest of the nation and that is an area manufacturing is concentrating on.

In a cover story in Atlantic Magazine, education was front and center. Nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan.

In Mississippi, math scores are much worse, and students here — by this measure at least — might as well be attending school in Thailand or Serbia. Every year, a better education for our youth is listed as our top need, like in this Ball State report. To this point, Mississippi just cut spending at every level of education from kindergarten to graduate school.

Barnes said this is at the heart of the problem of education and industry and economy.

“When are we going to learn or wake up to the direct correlation between education and economic development?” Barnes asked. “We just keep our heads in the sand.”

School superintendents with experience are not willing to make a change at the local level for fear of losing their jobs and their retirement, because of the pressure put on them from above, he said. As for younger superintendents, he says they are unwilling to rock the boat for fear of having their future yanked out from under them.

“You must have these skills,” Hicks said. “Computer skills and a higher lever of math is what everyone is looking for.”

And Mississippi workers do not and will not have these skills, based on scores Ball State examined for its study.

“When are we going to make those changes?” Barnes asked. “I wish I could tell you someone, somewhere has the guts to stand up and change things, but I don’t see it.”

And then he said there is no debating that without an overhaul, Mississippi will continue to be compared to Thailand, where the large-scale sex industry flourishes and education is on the back burner.

House immigration bill devastating to the Mississippi business community

January 27th, 2011 Comments off

A Mississippi House bill passed Thursday afternoon places the burden of responsibility for illegal immigration on the employers of the state

Thursday’s 80-36 vote came after a short explanation and no debate.

The bill would also allow law officers to check people’s immigration status during traffic stops or other encounters.

POLL QUESTION: Are you for a new House bill that is tough on immigration in Mississippi, but also tough on business employers?

However, the business community has now been placed squarely at the forefront of the immigration debate as the House bill calls for fines of a minimum of $5,000 per day per employee to a maximum for $25,000 per day per employee.

And that applies to small and large businesses as well as everyday citizens, who might have an undocumented housekeeper or lawn service worker.

Businesses found to have broken the law would lose all tax breaks and incentives provided for them and a clawback provision would force previous offenders to pay back money already credited to them over a period of time.

“Illegal aliens are not coming to Mississippi to sell drugs,” David Norquist (D-Cleveland) said Thursday afternoon. “They are here to make money and send that money out of Mississippi and back to Mexico to support their families and the economies of the towns the families live in.

“What we have here with this bill is the penalties have to outweigh the risk of hiring illegal aliens,” Norquist continued. “If employers weren’t hiring illegal aliens, there wouldn’t be an illegal alien issue in Mississippi.”

With the shift of emphasis from law enforcement to Mississippi employers, the bill would make a fund in which all of the fines, from $5,000 to $25,000 a day, would go to re-imburse officials enforcing the law.

This leaves Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant in a precarious position as this bill moves into the Senate.

Does Bryant back the bill, which is tough on immigration?

Or will Bryant back the business community and water down or kill the bill?

On the enforcement side, the state auditor will have the authority to chase offenders, which leaves open the possibility of Howard Industries having to pay back more than $3 million in incentives after a human resources manager was charged after a sweep saw 595 illegal aliens placed on administrative arrest. Of those arrested, nine were charged criminally with aggravated identity theft and ultimately pled guilty to federal identity fraud charges.

Pro-business organizations, like the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Mississippi as well as BIPEC (Business and Industry Political Education Committee) are certain to take a hard stand against the bill.

Meanwhile, organizations like the Tea Party are likely to support the bill as hard on illegal immigration.