Home » OPINION » Editorials » MBJ Editorial: Jobs and eminent domain … letting fear strike us out

MBJ Editorial: Jobs and eminent domain … letting fear strike us out

Economic development recruiters don’t use brass knuckles when they fight to get a big employer to come to their state. But they probably would if they could.

That is the kind of pier six brawl recruiters walk into at the start of every economic development competition. The last one standing walks away with the deal — and the jobs.

Mississippi is about to decide whether it wants to be the winner that departs with the spoils or the one that gets taken out early in the contest.

In fact, political watchers say Mississippians have already decided to put a stake into the heart of the state’s jobs creation effort. This will occur on Nov. 8, unless state courts bump from the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would outlaw the taking of private property for private purposes.

Since the Supreme Court’s 2005 upholding of the taking of private property for economic development in Kelo v. City of New London, Mississippians have feared that the state is scouring backyards and pastures throughout the Magnolia State to determine their suitability for economic development purposes. Those sort of unfounded fears allowed organizers to quickly collect way more than enough signatures needed to get the constitutional change put on the ballot.

Ballot initiative organizers could not point to a record of recklessness on the part of Mississippi’s economic development officials. In fact, they concede no eminent domain abuse has occurred.

But they hold out the prospect that it could, and say that is sufficient cause for taking Mississippi out of contention for future mega-employment deals.

Think about the value of economic development the next time you look out over a parking lot full of cars belonging to workers at the Nissan plant in Canton, or take in the massive size of Toyota’s soon-to-open Blue Springs plant.

The Nissan plant got built with no condemnation of land, though the state did lose a bid to take one family’s 24-acre homestead. The 2,000 acres on which Toyota built was acquired with the condemnation of only two acres, and one of those was a church that been disbanded nearly 80 years ago.

But the eminent domain laws on the books gave economic development officials the leverage to assemble the land and to – it should be noted—pay landowners full replacement value for their property instead of much lower market values.

A state with a sustained jobless rate in the 10 percent neighborhood has plenty to fear on the economic front. Why would it want to take away a key tool for alleviating that fear?

Reports are circulating that Hyundai is considering building another plant in the United States. Alabama beat out Kentucky for the last Hyundai plant and the 2,000 jobs it created near Montgomery.

SiteSelection.com lets Hyundai CEO Kim Dong-jiin explain why Alabama was the one standing when the competition ended:

“The Kentucky government has failed to condemn parts of the candidate site for the Hyundai plant, due to a pricing dispute with the land owners,” Kim said.

To the winner go the jobs.


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