Business Leaders: Education Top Economic Priority | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Business Leaders: Education Top Economic Priority

A report on Mississippi's economy lists education, work-force development, and strengthening and expanding the economy at the top of a list of goals for the state's future.

The Blueprint Mississippi 2011 report, released today, is the result of research by a collection of agencies and business leaders throughout the state. The report is intended to be "a starting point for what will be an ongoing dialogue for improving the economic future of the state" and is full of recommendations for how Mississippi can improve its economic standing and quality of life.

Rather than comparing Mississippi to the nation as a whole, Blueprint Mississippi looked at the state in the context of its closest competitors, dubbed "the Blueprint States." Mississippi ranks near the top of the Blueprint States in terms of job growth in some industries, including contact centers, remote-data centers, auto assembly, and aerospace and aviation, the report found. The state ranks near the bottom in terms of job loss in other industries, however, including metal fabrication and steel, defense and homeland security, and auto suppliers.

In addition to offering a snapshot of the state's economy, the Blueprint Mississippi report has a few suggestions for how to grow Mississippi's economy. In a survey, almost 2,000 business and community leaders across the state named educational achievement as the top priority among Blueprint Mississippi's goals.

Among the report's other recommendations are increasing the educational attainment level of Mississippians, developing the state's infrastructure and promoting health care as an economic driver.

Read the full report at or look for more detailed analysis in an upcoming print edition of the JFP. For now, here are a few key findings and recommendations from the report:

Economic-development professionals see these 11 states as Mississippi's closest competitors:
- Alabama
- Arkansas
- Florida
- Georgia
- Kentucky
- Louisiana
- North Carolina
- Oklahoma
- South Carolina
- Tennessee
- Texas

Some key findings in the report:
- Mississippi has become a major economic-development competitor.
- Mississippi has moved from a low-skill, low-wage economy to a higher-wage, middle-skill state.
- Streamlining work-force development is having a positive impact.
- Teacher quality makes a difference--leadership matters.
- The creative economy and entrepreneurship are growing.
- Communities are realizing the potential of cultural heritage for tourism.
- Mississippi's human capital is further supported by its natural resources.
- Poverty and economic success are intertwined--poverty, teen pregnancy, poor health and educational underachievement are economic issues, rather than just social needs.

How business and community leaders ranked Blueprint Mississippi's goals:
- Increasing Mississippians' educational achievement level - 24.2 percent
- Cultivating a more robust work force - 16.4 percent
- Strengthening and expanding the economy - 15.8 percent
- Promoting health care as an economic driver - 10.9 percent
- Supporting Mississippi's creative economy - 10.7 percent
- Continually developing infrastructure - 5.2 percent
- Increasing the availability of financial capital - 5.2 percent
- Cultivating diversity, community cooperation and racial reconciliation - 4.7 percent
- Improving communication and coordination among public, private and nonprofit leaders - 4.6 percent

Previous Comments


I've been in Mississippi since 1977. Every ten years or so a state wide business reports says education is the top priority. Since I have been in Mississippi there has never been a "real" increase in education funding at the state level. The only "real" increase in the state for education has been in the growth of the "lack of education" prison system All the increases in "real" funding for education in Mississippi have come in the form of increases of federal dollars in the form of Title III, outright grants or research awards. In fact the policy appears to be that for every dollar increase in federal dollars the state decreases state funding. That's the same model the Institutes of Higher Learning (College Board) used at the Black Universities, now they have extended the practice to the entire state system. The state policy rewards the predominately white districts by proving additional funds for districts that exhibit "growth" = white flight. Oh yes, by "real" funding increases I refer to increases where the impact of inflation or new mandates are factored out. Also I'm talking about actual funding, not the imaginary legislative mandates that are in law but never fully funded. Bottom line, until these state wide reports recommend increasing private and public investments (yes, taxes) for education, they are not really serious. All successful businesses know that if you want to increase profits after you have taken all the cost savings measures you have, you must increase your investments in the form of new technology, equipment, advertising or worker training. Of course the state could always let another state buy your home grown business with government incentives and you relocate to AL, LA, AK, TN, etc...which is what is happening. Can we say Orek, Frito Lay, Packard Electric, etc.


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