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Mississippi's economic growth gets national attention

Mississippi Top 100Historically, economic growth is not a term that nation’s analysts have quickly associated with Mississippi, but the outlook might be improving on several fronts.

According to Gov. Phil Bryant’s office, the American Legislative Exchange Council recently placed Mississippi among the Top 10 states for overall economic outlook for 2013, and the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity named Mississippi fifth for business startup activity in 2012. American City Business Journals also recently named Gov. Bryant 14th among U.S. governors for job creation in its On Numbers rankings.

Area Development Magazine, an economic development publication, awarded Mississippi a second consecutive Silver Shovel Award for strong economic development performance, and Bankrate.com named Mississippi the number five state for retirement, citing the state’s low taxes and lower-than-average cost of living.

In fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30, revenue collections exceeded estimates by more than $295 million — further evidence of economic improvement.

“I am very pleased to see Mississippi’s economy showing such strong evidence of improvement. We are working hard to build a business-friendly climate that attracts new jobs and new business investment, and we are seeing the results,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a news release last July when revenue numbers were released.

“Since I’ve taken office, we’ve announced the creation of more than 6,300 new jobs and more than $1 billion in private sector investment. Companies like Yokohoma, GE and Roxul can choose where to do business, and they are choosing Mississippi because Mississippi Works.”

Mississippi’s attractiveness to outside entities is mainly because low taxes, low average wages and weak unions.

That said, there remains many areas for improvement.

Mississippi’s unemployment is 8.5 percent, which ranks it 41st in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

It’s average weekly wage for fourth quarter of 2012 was $720, last in the nation, according to the Labor Department.

In August, 33 of the state’s 82 counties had double-digit unemployment.

According to Bryant’s office, revenue collection were estimated at $4.8 billion, but came in at $5 billion.

The higher collections were highlighted by :

» Corporate income tax: $61 million above projections.

» Sales tax: $24 million over projections.

» Individual income tax: $170 million above projections.

Part of the revenue increase should be available as a cushion to help the governor and lawmakers address spending priorities in fiscal year 2015. The governor will issue his priorities this November, and lawmakers will set the budget for FY15 when they reconvene in January for the 2014 regular legislative session.

“Our state’s strong performance is result of not only new jobs and economic activity but also fiscal prudence,” Gov. Bryant said in his news release.

“In each of my Executive Budget Recommendations, I have urged the Legislature to save a portion of revenues instead of spending everything we take in. Lawmakers have heeded my calls, and Mississippi is now on more stable financial footing as a result. They should certainly continue this practice.”

Preliminary figures recently released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis show Mississippi’s economy grew 2.4 percent in 2012, outperforming the Southeast’s 2.1 percent growth average. Along with the state’s revenue increase, the data prove that Mississippi is showing strong signs of recovery following the national recession.

“Mississippi continues to strengthen its economic competitiveness,” said Blake Wilson, president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council. “Recent milestones are perfect examples of what can be accomplished with a strong business climate and intense focus on workforce development. This is another step in ensuring that Mississippi is in the position of greatest opportunity.”

“Mississippi is working,” Gov. Bryant said of the state’s success. “We don’t intend to stop.”

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