Mississippi in good shape economically

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NATCHEZ — Mississippians are most worried about educational quality and the lack of jobs, according to the findings of a Mississippi Economic Council poll.

MEC President Blake Wilson presented the findings of the agency’s poll to a group of Natchez business leaders and community members Tuesday.

MEC — which bills itself as the state’s Chamber of Commerce — polled approximately 300 state business leaders and 300 citizens.

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And 61 percent of the state’s citizens believe Mississippi is moving in the right direction, Wilson said.

That confidence was shown in recent state elections when large numbers of incumbents were reelected, he said.

Eighty percent of citizens believe Mississippi is the same or better economically than the surrounding states.

But that’s not to say the state doesn’t have worries.

Business leaders polled said they were most worried about having quality workers.

“This becomes a huge challenge,” Wilson said. “If there was ever an argument for investing in education and workforce development, this is it.”

And citizens and business leaders alike say education and jobs should be the state’s No. 1 and No. 2 priorities.

“This is what its all about folks,” Wilson said. “Jobs and education, education and work force training — those are the key issues.”

Wilson outlined several keys to achieving a higher educational standard, including:

4Fully funding education on the state level

4Educating school board members on their duties

4Having appointed superintendents instead of elected ones

4Restoring funds that have been diverted from education

4Teacher pay increases

4Additional funding to at-risk students

4More pre-kindergarten programs

4More funding to high school redesign

Wilson and MEC representatives are traveling the state to share the results of their poll. Their tour is an annual one that gives a report on the group’s current projects.