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MBJ Editorial: Mississippi Delta worse off after eight years of Gov. Barbour

The Mississippi Delta continues to flounder as unemployment figures average around 18 percent for the 12 counties between Vicksburg and Memphis.
Yet, there have been many jobs announcements in the years of the Barbour administration, but very few have had anything to do with the Mississippi Delta.
In this latest barrage of economic development announcements, the Delta — generally thought of as the most poverty stricken region in America — has been shutout.
While Columbus received another shot in the arm with the announcement of Calisolar future location there, the Delta has nothing.
In fact, there have been announcements involving the location Soladigm, KiOR, Stion, Twin Creeks and HCL Cleantech to Mississippi in the last six to eight months, but none are locating in the Mississippi Delta.
In 2007, hen the Mississippi Legislature approved $173 million in incentives for the $2.7 billion 3,500-job Riverbend Crossing project in DeSoto County, lawmakers touted the need for jobs in the impoverished Delta. However DeSoto County isn’t a part of what most consider the Delta.
Impoverished counties like Coahoma, Tallahatchie, Bolivar, Washington, Sunflower, Leflore, Sharkey, Issaquena and others continues to be stuck in a cycle of poverty with virtually no help from the state of Mississippi or anywhere else.
Whatever happened to the 27-member Delta Revitalization Task Force, authorized by House Bill 1034, and focuses on 16 Delta counties. We’ve head nothing from them for years.
Meanwhile, DeSoto County got $173 million to help the fastest growing county in Mississippi (39th fastest in the nation) with 57.85 percent growth since 1990. An average of 7.5 new families move to DeSoto County each day.
In the latest round with the alternative energy announcements, more than $175 million in incentives lure companies to Mississippi but not a dime went to lure companies to the Mississippi Delta.
We are closing in on eight complete years of having Haley Barbour as governor and outside of convincing Baxter Laboratories to stay in Cleveland (which was a big deal), there is very little to show in the Mississippi Delta.
We are aware of the problems with locating industry in the Mississippi Delta.
>> Public education is atrocious.
>> Healthcare ranks on par with third-world countries.
However, nothing was done to change that during eight years of Haley Barbour.
So, here we stand in 2011 and the Mississippi Delta is largely unchanged, except for the new Greenville Bridge being built, which has done little more than allow people to leave the Delta faster than they would have before.

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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.

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