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Education always at the top of the list'

By By Buddy Bynum/editor
Feb. 18, 2002
One of Mississippi's leading money managers and investment advisers was in Meridian last week as featured speaker for Community Bank Meridian's 2002 Economic Forecast Luncheon. Stacey L. Wall, president and CEO of Pinnacle Trust, responded to additional questions in an editorial board interview with The Meridian Star:
The Meridian Star: In your opinion, is the recession over?
Wall: There are indications that the recession has ended or will end during the first quarter of this year. My concern involves the strength of the recovery. This was a business-led recession. Consumers did not participate to the extent that they normally do; therefore, there is little pent-up consumer demand. Additionally, consumer debt is at record levels. These two factors will make this a weaker than normal economic recovery.
The Star: What is your outlook for the Mississippi economy over the next three years?
Wall: I believe that Mississippi's economy will behave similarly to what we'll experience nationally. Things will improve this year, but growth will remain somewhat subdued.
The Star: What steps should Mississippi be taking today to prepare for the next downturn?
Wall: Lawmakers should be prudent with their expenditures during this time of slower growth and not be too optimistic with tax revenue projections for the coming year. Consumers should remain confident in the state of the economy, but should take steps in the future to reduce high debt loads and to save more.
The Star: In which sectors do you see the most growth opportunity?
Wall: Opportunities abound. We have had incredible innovations in health care, manufacturing and technology. We have seen the demise of communism, the rise of free-market economies. We now have anti-lock brakes, supermarket scanners, profound improvements in heart surgery, artificial hips and knees, and prescription drugs that treat high blood pressure, cholesterol and other serious health problems. These cures, inventions and innovations create jobs, make business more efficient and add to worldwide prosperity.
The Star: In your opinion, is NAFTA responsible for the exodus of jobs in the textile industry?
Wall: NAFTA has certainly had an impact on the loss of jobs in the textile industry. We need to be aware that, like it or not, we are rapidly moving to a global economy. Because labor markets for certain industries are much cheaper in other parts of the world, we're going to have to adjust for the changing environment.
The Star: What are your observations on how the state can construct job training and re-training programs that help meet future needs?
Wall: Mississippi has a strong and viable labor force. We need to focus training on industries where we can be competitive with the rest of the world skilled labor where we can justify higher wages because quality control is an important issue. The success in attracting Nissan is a good example.
The Star: Economically speaking, what elements need to be in place for east Mississippi to attract world-class industry?
Wall: Education is always at the top of the list when looking to attract industry. Companies want to know that not only is the work force educated, but that the children of the employees moving to Mississippi will be in good environments. Quality of life is also important to companies looking to locate here.
The Star: What fundamental message would you like to deliver to east Mississippians?
Wall: We've been through some difficult times as a nation recently. Yet, Mississippians, as well as all Americans, have responded with compassion, strength and resiliency. This is the 10th recession we've experienced since World War II. Every one has been followed by a recovery. This one will be no different. If you believe in the strength of American resolve, hard work and innovation, then take a long-term view and believe in our economic system. I certainly do.

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