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Clean off your desk for the interesting ideas

From the Ground Up

Random thoughts while cleaning off this side of the desk:

* Jackson has recently been dubbed “The Best of the New South” and long ago “The Crossroads of the South.”

Obviously, Jackson is in the South. Lest there be any doubt, the signs on the taller buildings in downtown proclaim the geography of the place. There is Cellular South, BancorpSouth, AmSouth and now SouthTrust. I’d say Jackson is the center of the South.

* Why does Mississippi have such a high rate of homeownership? A good question.

One would think that a state with a high poverty rate and a low rate of income would not rank high in its rate of home ownership. At around 74.5%, Mississippi ranks number nine in the country. I asked around for opinions. It was generally agreed among my learned friends that rural states rank higher in home ownership rates. There is less rental property available in rural areas.

Another factor is the growing percentage of mobile home ownership. Many renters turn into owners in rural states because of the availability of affordable mobile homes and access to land.

Comparing other states explains some things. Generally, the greater the population density, the lower the home ownership rate. Washington, D.C., at 42.7% is at the bottom and New York at 53.9% is not far behind. On the other hand, Michigan has the highest rate of home ownership at 77.1%. Here are the rates by region for you to draw your own conclusions:

Home Ownership Rates — 2001, U.S. Census Bureau

United States 67.6%

Inside metro areas 65.9%

In central cities 51.4%

Not in central cities (suburbs) 74.4%

Outside metro areas 74.9%

Northeast 63.9%

Midwest 72.8%

South 69.3%

West 62.4%

* Someone asked me to describe the ideal city. My ideal city would be a growing city of 100,000 to 200,000 residents. A city of that size has good medical care and a variety of things to do. The economy of my ideal city would be diverse and not dependent on a cyclical industry. It would be home to several headquarters companies that sold globally.

It would also be a city of educated people and have a college or university in town or nearby. There would also be a racially, ethnically and culturally diverse population. It would also be connected to the world, either by airport or water.

* Someone else asked me what I would do if I could change Jackson. If there could be only one thing I could do it would be to make Jackson a city of readers. Jackson would be known as a place where everyone read a lot and there would be no illiteracy. Events would focus on books and authors.

Jackson would be the city of the book. If everyone in Jackson could read and did read often, Jackson would be a different and better place.

* Last night I checked into a motel and was greeted by a sign that said that $2.19 would be added to my bill as a “telecommunications charge.” When I asked the clerk what would happen if I did not use the telephone I was told, “If you have a complaint with the charge we will not put it on your bill.”

Duh! After I got settled in to my room I began thinking of all the additional charges we are paying these days that are not stated as part of the price.

Many cities now charge a local sales tax on restaurants and hotel bills. Stay in a resort area and you will really see some charges. Some hotels are still trying to add an energy surcharge.

Don’t even begin to study your telephone (cellular or otherwise) bill for charges that were not in the advertisements.

Finally, a friend moved into an apartment and was told that it was not necessary to call the utility companies for service. “Why not?” he asked. “Is that included in the bill?” He was told that a flat fee was just added each month.

Next week I’ll work on the other side of the desk.

Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is phil@philhardwick.com.


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