Lance was the keynote speaker at the event, which was held at the Jackson Country Club, and attended by several hundred business and government leaders.
Currently serving as the dean of the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University, Lance previously served for four years in the same capacity at the University of Southern Mississippi. Growing up in Alabama, he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama and his doctorate at the University of Georgia.
With his perspective including both Mississippi and Texas, I asked him what he sees as the big differences between the 2 states in terms of economic development and growth.
“Texas is a state with a can-do attitude,” he said. “Mississippi has the same kind of attitude, but of course, the scope is quite different. Both states are definitely strong entrepreneurial environments.”
That led us to a follow up query: then what is holding Mississippi back in terms of scoring the kinds of “big victories” that has made Texas such an economic engine.
“I’d say it’s all in perception,” he suggested. “We need to do a better job of convincing everyone outside of Mississippi of what the folks in Mississippi already know….that it’s a great state with terrific resources, a great work force, and a great quality of life for its citizens.”
He said that Mississippi, being a much smaller state than Texas, undoubtedly lacks the marketing resources and clout that Texas has, suggesting that a lot of the issue boils down to funding.
“Although Mississippi has its challenges, I’m satisfied that there are bright things on the horizon for this state,” he said.
In his presentation, he painted a strong future for Madison County, pointing to its growth and strength as a center of finance, law, technology, and culture for central Mississippi. From his point of view, “Madison County is getting it right” in the economic development arena, he said, citing particularly the companies who have located in the county in the past 10-15 years, the educational advancements in public education in the county, the focus on medical technology, and other elements which he says will “ensure a bright future for Madison County.”
He also pointed out that Mississippi has a number of other strong enterprise zones, including the Gulf Coast, Hattiesburg, Tupelo, and others.
“I’m particularly encouraged by the entrepreneurial climate in Mississippi,” he said. “There really are a lot of great folks doing creative things, and in the long term, that’s going to transform the state in some very positive ways. When you couple that with the state’s great resources, you have a winning combination.”
He said that Mississippi’s major investments need to be made “in the areas of education, research, and innovation,” suggesting that these will pay “great dividends” for the state’s future.
“Texas is absolutely known for phenomenal productivity,” he said. “And I really feel that Mississippi can attain those kinds of standards.”
I asked him if some of the current global economic and social trends are likely to impact the nation as a whole, and Mississippi in particular.
“There is certainly a fair amount of uncertainty at the global level,” he said. “No one really knows how the whole China issue is going to play out. You’re talking about major slowdowns in the world’s second biggest economy, and yes, that can influence the global economy.” He stopped short of predicting a global recession, but suggested that “other nations may need to pick up the slack if we do see China continuing its downward trends.”
He also sees the current rising costs of higher education to be problematic for the nation as a whole, and says that he “would hate to see deserving kids not get the education they need because the cost is prohibitive. That would be counter-productive for many, for the whole middle class.”
Still, he remains optimistic about the prospects for economic growth and progress in many regions, including our own.
During the event, the Visionary Leadership Award for this year was presented to David Landrum for his many accomplishments, not least of which was his vision for the Town of Livingston.
The vision award to a company was made to Merit Health, with its commitment in developing Merit Health Madison as an important medical facility.
For further information, visit www.madisoncountybusinessleague.com, or www.madisoncountyeda.com.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.
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