Thursday, July 21, 2005

Mississippi’s New Momentum

By Governor Haley Barbour

Mississippians looking for jobs in the fastest-growing sectors of the economy may now have a valuable new resource – their own state. That’s the promise of Momentum Mississippi, the state’s plan for modernizing job creation efforts in key high-growth, higher-paying sectors that was approved by the Legislature in a Special Session earlier this month.

I am grateful for the support of numerous Mississippi business, political, and education leaders who joined me in working for passage.

The legislation builds on other efforts I have initiated since my first year in office to make sure Mississippi has the most attractive business climate possible and that we work to create new, better-paying jobs. These efforts have included:

• comprehensive tort reform heralded by national publications as among the most aggressive in the country;
• streamlining Mississippi’s workforce development system;
• easing the payroll tax on Mississippi employers.

These recent reforms have laid the foundation for Mississippi’s competitiveness and economic growth.

Momentum Mississippi comes at a time when Mississippi's economy is showing signs of growth, and this growing economy is generating more revenue – but most importantly - without raising taxes. Last year, personal income grew by the highest rate since 1998 and employment grew more than any year since 1999. This is the foundation on which Momentum Mississippi will help us build.

Led by Anthony Topazi, president of Mississippi Power Company, the Momentum Mississippi Task Force consists of 123 talented and energetic business, education and civic leaders from every region of the state. The task force provided advice and analysis on business and economic issues and, under Mr. Topazi’s leadership, its members spent untold hours reviewing the state’s economic environment and making numerous recommendations that became the basis of my economic legislative agenda for 2005.

Momentum revamps Mississippi’s economic development incentive programs. The changes will provide flexibility to meet needs of different industries and geographic regions, encourage existing industries to stay and grow in Mississippi, and help us attract greater levels of investment with higher wages for our workforce.

Momentum Mississippi realigns our tax incentives to make eligible the kinds of businesses that are growing fastest in today’s economy — technology, research and development, distribution, and services like financial centers. It also provides new bonding authority to encourage existing industries to expand their operations in Mississippi and not go out-of-state.

Momentum Mississippi replenishes funds for existing programs. Currently, 84 projects across the state can now receive incentives from these programs. These opportunities have the potential to generate $1.9 billion in private investment and create nearly 10,000 jobs. Over the last 10 years alone these existing loan and grant programs have helped fund 137 projects with $331 million in private investment, which created 11,520 jobs in Mississippi.

It should be no surprise that Momentum Mississippi was a top priority for my Administration - job creation is our state's most urgent need.

With innovative ideas from the private and public sector, this economic development strategy was designed to accommodate the many shapes and sizes that characterize economic development today. It will have far-reaching effects on our economy and our future. Mississippi now has the tools to compete for good jobs with other southern states and the potential to become a major player in the global marketplace. I applaud those who fought hard for this measure to pass. Future generations will thank you for a job well done.



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Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741