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Mississippi must find its niche to attract economic development

By By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
Dec. 12, 2001
The publisher of Mississippi's statewide business newspaper compared the state's economic development over the last 50 years to hunting deer.
Joe Jones, president and publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal, told Meridian business leaders Tuesday that the state has used a "buckshot approach" to economic development.
Jones spoke to about 100 business leaders at the Business Before Hours meeting that the East Mississippi Business Development Corp. sponsored at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus.
He talked primarily about economic development, including his thoughts on what it will take for Mississippi to thrive. He said the "buck-shot approach" won't work anymore.
Jones said Mississippi can't compete with countries whose residents work for less money. He said the state must "zero-in on industries that we want to bring to our area and focus on getting them here."
EMBDC Chairman Tommy Dulaney said after Jones' speech that he hopes the Meridian area can use that same approach to capitalize on the automobile industry.
Nissan plans to open a $1 billion auto plant in April 2003, just south of Canton and about 90 minutes west of Meridian. Mercedes-Benz already has an auto plant in Tuscaloosa, about 90 minutes east of Meridian.
Dulaney said the EMBDC has had "a few contacts" with some auto companies, but he declined to name them. He said he believes "we have a two-year window here to get some of those and I think it's going to happen pretty soon."
Jones told business leaders that in order to be able to employ good, quality people, they must be well trained and well educated something he said Mississippi doesn't do.
Dulaney agreed, saying he believes Meridian has a trainable work force.
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228, or e-mail him at fcarmichael@themeridianstar.com.

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