More progress needed in Mississippi

Published 12:00 pm Friday, August 5, 2016

joel mcneece 3333Politics blew through the Neshoba County Fair’s Founders’ Square last week, and some of what was on the breeze had more than a hint of political clashes to come.

Other speeches were the kind of politics providing cover from unpleasant facts.

Gov. Phil Bryant said Mississippi is not getting the credit it deserves, particularly in education and economic development.

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Granted, Mississippi has made some progress in parts of both broad issues, but the negative track of our state is more visible nationwide. That is not to place blame directly on Gov. Bryant, but the familiar bottom slot occupied by our state is discouragingly regular.

Statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a federal agency, don’t offer much for Mississippians to brag about.

Utah was listed as the best economy among U.S. states, beating out top 5-ranked Washington, California, Massachusetts and Colorado.

Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Maine and New Mexico are the worst areas for commercial activity.

The U.S. economy as a whole didn’t offer much to brag about either, but when everybody else is ahead, continuing on the bottom is discouraging.

WalletHub, a financial website, measured state economies with several methods, including business activity, health and innovation potential. Massachusetts was No. 1 in the technical ranking because of its well educated work force, while West Virginia ranked last.

The report lists as the top 10 growth states: Utah, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, New York, Texas and Oregon.

It lists as the bottom 10 growth states Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Maine, New Mexico, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Oklahoma and Hawaii.

Similar measures show Mississippi remains at the bottom in per capita income and household income that is more than $15,000 per year behind the national average.

Perhaps most disturbing, 19.47 percent of Mississippi’s households have incomes of less than $15,000.

The Mississippi Economic Outlook, a state analytical publication, forecasts regaining employment levels in 2010 by 2018, a slow rebound.

The Outlook also places Mississippi’s growth in perspective: Mississippi has been so far behind that realization of consecutive years of low growth in 2015, 2016, and 2017 would mark a significant turning point in Mississippi’s economy as it continues to recover from the Great Recession.

Mississippi needs more progress than a gain slightly better than others among the lowest in the nation.

Joel McNeece is publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce, MS. You may email him at