Mississippi has gained more than 14,000 new jobs since 2012, but unemployment has remained stubbornly high. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports on what Governor Phil Bryant says he’s wants do to increase economic development in the Magnolia state.
Governor Phil Bryant say he's determinted to move the state's economy to a new level so it can better compete for economic development dollars, especially with its Southeastern neighbors. He says that's going to take building the workforce.
"You've got to get our young men and women that are coming out of our universities and our community colleges into the workforce and get them to stay here," he says. "Our third of our great talent move out of state. They go to some other state because they believe they have to move to get fame and fortune somewhere else. They need to grow where they're planted, stay here in Mississippi with their great talent and abilities."
Bryant spoke in Gulfport Monday morning, on the latest stop in his seven-city Mississippi Works tour. He's on the road touting the state’s economic successes and bragging rights, such as high rankings in surveys on the affordability of doing business and tax-friendliness. Under his watch, he says, the state has cut taxes for businesses 41 times.
State representative David Baria of Bay St. Louis says he’d like to see more funding for education.
"I think that we should get back to the commitment that we made to fully fund K thorugh 12 education," he says. "I think we should have mandatory kindergarten. That's going to cost some money, but I'd rather see us spend the money on that then cut the franchise tax for some of these corporations that are in Mississippi, and that's they only tax they pay. Rather than doing that, I'd rather see us keep the money in our budget and spend it on education."
Governor Bryant says he plans to ask the legislature for more funding for education, specifically in workforce development. For example, he says he’d like to see scholarships for some students who commit to stay in the workforce in Mississippi.
Bryant also says he has some big economic development plans for the Gulf Coast. Speaking to business leaders in Gulfport Monday, he touted the state’s economic development successes in a meeting room overlooking the Port of Gulfport. One of his goals: shipping Mississippi-made cars from the port.
"We're working on it hard," he says. "I met with the chairman of Toyota North America, we've been in California, I've been to Japan. We have a facility that we can help finish those out - put on the mirrors, wrap them, ship them on the ships, because South America's growing. We make those cars in Mississippi, we need to ship them out of Mississippi."
Bryant says he also wants to grow the shipbuilding industry, and plans to form a shipbuilding association and host an international shipbuilding summit on the Gulf Coast.