Sunday, April 15, 2018

Bill Crawford: A Tale of Two Headlines

The same information released by State Auditor Stacey Pickering resulted in two quite different headlines.

"Study: Economic development incentives paying off for state," read the headline in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

"Auditor: Failed economic projects cost Mississippi taxpayers $185M," read the headline in the Clarion-Ledger.

Both are accurate, both based on the same report by Pickering, but both convey very different perspectives. So, too, do the stories.

The CL story by Jerry Mitchell focuses mainly on the state's economic projects that failed, 11 out of 243 from 2010 to 2017. The DJ story by Bobby Harrison focuses mainly on the overall success of the projects.

"State Auditor Stacey Pickering says failed economic development projects over the past decade have cost Mississippi taxpayers more than $185 million," begins Mitchell's story.

"Despite failures that have the potential to cost the state $185 million, Mississippi has received positive results from its incentive programs designed to entice companies to locate in the state, according to a study conducted by the office of Auditor Stacey Pickering," begins Harrison's story.

Again, both are accurate, but convey different perspectives.

Mitchell's story spends 14 paragraphs describing seven "green companies" approved as projects during Gov. Haley Barbour's administration, most of which failed, some of which may cost the state as much as $180 million in losses. He focused in particular on the biofuel company KiOR bankruptcy that may cost the state $76.3 million and the $74.8 million loan to Stion, a solar panel manufacturer that located in Hattiesburg. While calling these losses, he did quote Attorney General Jim Hood who said, "as soon as a company that promised to deliver jobs and money to the state falls flat on its promise, our office will go after every penny it owes the taxpayers of Mississippi, just as we are doing now with GreenTech, Stion and KiOR.

Mirchell also quoted Columbus economic developer Joe Max Higgins who said about the KiOR plant that was located in Columbus, "Mississippi got screwed way bigger than it did with the (failed Yalobusha County) beef plant."

Mitchell's story does mention the one green company project that has been "a roaring success." This is the View high-tech windows plant in Olive Branch that paid back its $44 million loan and has hired 335 employees.

He also pointed out that Gov. Phil Bryant, in contrast to Barbour, "prefers that Mississippi not invest in startup companies," adding, "the state has lost far less from failed projects under his administration." He failed to note, however, that Barbour's projects failed after he left office and Bryant has not yet completed his second term.

Harrison's story spends only three paragraphs describing losses, highlighting KIOR and Stion.

Both stories quoted Pickering's key finding: "Economic development projects have been good for Mississippi. Overall, we have all benefited from industry being recruited to our state by economic incentives. However, we must remain vigilant in ensuring public dollars are only spent on industry with a track record of success instead of risky startup technology.”

Both cited Pickering's statistic that the state's five incentive programs have had "a return of $12 for each $1 invested" even when taking failures into account.

Two tales, two perspectives. But no fake news.

Crawford ( is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.


Anonymous said...

And you wonder why Mississippians are in the dark, and at the bottom of every list nationally. So sad.

Anonymous said...

11:42 - How come you left off the part about two of your kids have already graduated and left Mississippi and you're convincing the third to do the same?

Don't disappoint us. You're getting lazy.

Anonymous said...

3:33, Maybe the economic development people in Mississippi need to brag on the high quality of your state’s exports: The bright young people leave the state as soon as they are old enough.

Anonymous said...

Roll out your usual stats, 7:54. With the exception of the thousands of 'bright young people' who live in Madison, Flowood, Hernando, Southaven and Tupelo. And while you're denigrating MY state....Which state is YOUR state?

Anonymous said...

10:20, Yes, I forgot about those cultural centers of enlightenment in Mississippi. Do they still grind up old cars in Flowood?

Anonymous said...

Well, of course they do. The Clarion Ledger focuses on the negative / glass half empty. Negative sells and gets them awards. That is all that they're about. Pitiful.

Anonymous said...

Hey 11:26 is it negative to actually state or restate facts? What has this crowd done to get Mississippi off the bottom? I'm not sure how kids getting to carry guns to nursery school or 4 week abortion laws builds the economy but maybe you can tell us without all us negative nellies hollering. Geez.

Anonymous said...

1:54 (Jerry? Sam R.?), you sure you're talkin' to me (11:26)?
My commentary was in regard to the statement, "...both convey very different perspectives..." and the Clarion Ledger policies and practices. Yes, sometimes they do restate facts that someone else has researched and provided via other media. I did not read anything in Mr. Crawford's column about children and guns and abortion laws. "Geez"

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Trollfest '07

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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