Clinton is the only small town in the Metro Jackson area that boasts a four year college. Mississippi College is one of the oldest institutes of higher learning in the country. Take a drive some evening to Clinton. As you exit I-20, you’ll head north on the Parkway. Topping the hill, you’ll see the college to your left with its glowing clock tower at the center of campus. Framed like a perfect-picture postcard will be the First Baptist steeple in the background. It’s quite a site!
Each day class is in session, 5000 students appear in town. They eat. They fill their gas tanks. They drink coffee. They eat some more. They shop, and they add to the economic activity of the town. With over 450 employees, MC is the third largest employer in Clinton. They shop and eat, too.
Unlike a manufacturer, MC is an employer that adds to the quality of life within the city. On a regular basis, there are sporting and cultural events on campus. Local residents find opportunities for continuing education through various programs. The campus adds aesthetic value to our Olde Towne area with beautiful and historic buildings. The only complaint about this employer seems to be the lack of parking spaces in our downtown area because of the influx of students.
Ask any small town. Having a four year college within your borders is a big economic boost. Madison certainly understood this when they welcomed Tulane to town. This satellite campus of an out-of-state school is better than nothing, but it’s not a full campus. As I understand it, the courses offered there are limited, and there are questions about the transferability of said courses.
So I was quite surprised when Jackson State announced they would also open a satellite campus in Madison. I thought, “Wow!” An in-state public school with accredited, well-recognized courses, what’s not to like about that deal?
The news was not welcomed by city officials. Mayor Hawkins has carefully managed the image of her fair city. From the fancy Wal-Mart to the Disney World Kroger, Hawkins and her followers have sculpted an image of Madison that has created great growth. No doubt about it.
The attraction of Tulane was a star in their crown. No longer could Clinton claim they were the only suburban town with a college. There was Madison, shining city on a hill with the proud banner of a Louisiana school flying high.
So why wouldn’t you want another school? The Mayor claims to be protecting the interest of an existing business, but Tulane’s Dean says the services could be complementary. When asked to address charges of racism, Mayor Hawkins says, “It’s just business.”
Could the carefully managed image of “Madison The City” be at stake? And if a business wants to come to town that would mar that image, shouldn’t city officials do all in their power to block it? While that move could hurt current tax revenues, the preservation of Madison’s image could be worth the struggle in the long term.
Or maybe the Mayor and the Madison crew just prefer the green and blue motif of Tulane to the blue and white of JSU. Because image is everything.
Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is President of New Perspectives, Inc., in Ridgeland, 601-991-3158. She is also an Assistant Professor of Finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is email@example.com, and her website is www.newper.com.