Business leaders gather for Mississippi Economic Council’s annual meeting

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 8:40 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi business leaders say they’re looking for ways to tell the state’s story before others do it for them. And they’re hoping that will help continue the economic growth from the past year.

The Mississippi Economic Council was able to hold its annual meeting in person again. And business leaders got an update on how the state is looking to capitalize on some momentum.

Mississippi has worked to stay competitive even in the midst of the pandemic. The state’s development authority says instead... there was growth.

“Step one is the fact that we kept our economy open... Governor Reeves, while managing the pandemic, I think very effectively, kept the state open,” explained John Rounsaville, Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director. “That meant for us from an economic development perspective, we didn’t lose ground. In fact, we gained ground last year. We saw doubling in the level of capital investment we would typically see in a year.”

Having skilled workers to fill those jobs is the other big piece of the puzzle. Accelerate Mississippi was recently launched to help put the state’s workforce development efforts under one umbrella.

“The greatest factor of success in this is having industries sitting at the table to tell us what their needs are but helping develop the strategy to solve those things... the solutions to those problems,” added Accelerate Mississippi Executive Director Ryan Miller.

The new state flag was displayed prominently for the luncheon. The Mississippi Economic Council was among those who were front and center in that call for change.

“A defining moment for our state,” said Anthony Wilson, 2020/2021 MEC Chair and Mississippi Power President and CEO.

Before making the change, they say the old flag was having impacts on attracting new business.

“It’s significant,” noted Wilson. “It’s hard to put the data together to support that, but I’ve personally been in the room with economic development clients and they actually say it would be difficult within their own company to site a company with our flag in existence.”

Governor Tate Reeves told the crowd of business leaders that they were the ones to thank for their resiliency.

“To the extent that we’ve had any success, it hasn’t been by the decisions made by your government... it’s been because of the risks that you as business leaders were willing to assume to get people back to work. And to move our economy,” said Reeves.

Reeves also told the crowd his biggest regret related to decisions surrounding COVID was defining some businesses as “essential.” He says he made a mistake because “every single business is essential.”

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