Note: Brandon Jones of the Democratic Trust submitted this column to JJ.
Mississippi falling behind in manufacturing isn’t exactly heart-stopping news. In fact, given our state’s long string of economic development failures, it isn’t even a surprise.
Too many times we have seen headlines crystallizing the sad state of affairs of our current economic and manufacturing environment. In just the last two weeks, we have seen two major articles in the state’s largest publications highlighting Mississippi’s dismal performance on manufacturing job creation.
An article in The Mississippi Business Journal reported that the Southeast’s manufacturing activity had improved in June according to the Southeast’s Purchasing Managers Index. Six states were including in the recent PMI; Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Of the six, four of them are experiencing higher economic growth. You guessed it; Mississippi was not one of the four. Not only was Mississippi not growing, we’re the only one in our region falling behind.
A week later, the front page of the Clarion-Ledger featured a Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research report card for each state’s manufacturing base. Mississippi received a “D” in innovation and global outreach. Mississippi earned an “F” in human capital and quality of workforce. Both of these reports come after a year where Mississippi saw ZERO net job creation.
With no job creation and a shrinking manufacturing base, this year doesn’t look promising either.
These non-partisan, impartial economic reports undeniably show where we lack leadership, and the impact our failure to invest in education and workforce development and training is having on our long-term manufacturing sector.
This is all further proof that to improve our economy, we must invest in our own people first.
Republicans in Jackson say Mississippi is in the best shape we’ve ever been. That’s an opinion that is not supported by the data. And the Republican economic plan: “Let’s throw everything at the wall and hope it sticks…” does not inspire confidence. It should be noted that the previous quote is not my exaggeration, Governor Phil Bryant actually said that.
Some states develop precise economic models to scientifically identify and target economic investment and create jobs. Our Governor’s economic strategy operates and relies on a “let’s see which way the wind is blowing” premise. That is no way to approach something as important as our economy.
Major manufacturing plants are a welcome addition to the state. Subsidizing them to the tune of $660,000 per job, however, is a horrible investment of state funds that is unlikely to ever be repaid. But that’s not the only poor investment Republicans have made. Mississippi is also on the hook for $75 million worth of misguided investments in failed energy start-up KiOR, which ended in bankruptcy.
Major manufacturing endeavors looking for a home in a state like ours absolutely have to have a strong workforce. Otherwise we will be stuck in an ever-escalating race with other states to see who is willing to give away the most money to prop up fake economic statistics.
This election year holds enormous consequences. Our current leadership has decided to continuously chip away at the fabric of pubic education. They are throwing tens of millions of dollars at companies that go bankrupt. They are threatening to cut agency budgets to lay off employees as a scare tactic. And their economic development strategy is rooted in offering out of state corporations enticement packages that would be laughed at in any other state in the country.
Our economic future depends on our own ability to elect leaders who value education and are willing to make the investments that create a greater economic climate and a stronger future for all our citizens.