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Mississippi editorial roundup

November 22, 2017

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Nov. 15

The Vicksburg Post on where Warren County should build its new jail:

Warren County already owns the land where it needs to build a new county jail.

The county owns land at the under-utilized Ceres industrial park in Flowers. That’s the perfect place to construct a county jail.

The county has proposed two other sites for its jail. The one favored by the county’s contracted engineering firm, Stantec, sits in the midst of Vicksburg’s most growing region, on Berryman Road off of Clay Street, near the city’s new fire station.

It’s understandable why Stantec would favor that site. Of the two put forth by the county’s board of supervisors, it would be easiest and less costly to get water and sewer services to the Berryman Road site.

However, while the proposed jail would likely not be visible from Clay Street, that area is home to restaurants, four hotels and another one on the way and a shopping complex. It’s prime location for additional economic development.

The Berryman Road site also would put the jail uncomfortably near an elementary school.

Opposition to that site, and rightly so, surfaced quickly, and the county should strike it from its list of potential sites for the jail.

The other area proposed for the jail — a 47-acres site located off U.S. 80 near the site of the former Pine Woods motel — would simply cost too much to get sewer and other utilities to it.

We can’t imagine any tenants or potential tenants of the industrial park minding that a county jail would locate near them. In fact, those industrial tenants may welcome the stepped up law enforcement presence. It’s not like we are building a Parchman. This facility is a county jail.

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs formed a committee within the city on Nov. 13 to study building a jail or holding facility here. We’re sure that move was meant to urge the board of supervisors to act with a sense of urgency.

The issue of the jail has been bantered around for more than a decade now. The need for a new jail is undeniable. The county’s present jail is a danger to inmates and law enforcement officers alike.

The city pays upward of $1 million a year to transport and house its misdemeanor inmates in Issaquena County. It would behoove the board of supervisors to seek Flaggs’ help in moving the issue of building a county jail forward. With his 20 or so years of experience as a state legislator, he could no doubt help ease the construction of a new county jail through any legislative hurdles.

The county should use the land it owns now at Ceres to build a new jail, which could reduce the cost of the project by a million dollars or more, and should seeks Flaggs’ help in making it a reality.

Online: http://www.vicksburgpost.com/

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Nov. 17

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo on reports that Mississippi is unlikely to be home of a plant jointly run by Toyota and Mazda:

Unconfirmed reports that Mississippi is unlikely to be the home of a significant automotive plant jointly run by Toyota and Mazda are disappointing, especially for Northeast Mississippi, but the result could offer some valuable insight for regional and state leaders to use going forward with other economic development projects.

Officials with the two Japanese automakers announced earlier this year they planned to build a $1.6-billion automotive assembly plant, which would build the Toyota Corolla and future Mazda crossover vehicles by 2021. The facility, which requires at least 1,000 acres upon which to build, will employ up to 4,000 workers.

Shortly after that announcement, the Wall Street Journal named 11 states on what it said was a short list of top candidates for the site: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

Discussions here quickly turned to whether Northeast Mississippi would be home to this plant, essentially growing the state’s existing partnership with Toyota, which already employs 2,000 people at its plant in Blue Springs, where the Corolla is built.

The 2-million-square-foot plant, which began production six years ago, sits on a 1,700-acre site that already has a pad built to match the current plant’s design, perhaps furthering the idea that our region would see another significant investment from a major international company.

A report from Bloomberg citing sources familiar with the negotiations, however, states that Alabama and North Carolina are the likely finalists for the plant.

Toyota and Mazda officials have yet to comment on the report, and state leaders are taking the same approach, a long-standing approach for current or active economic development projects.

Reports also say that Toyota and Mazda are seeking incentives worth up to $1 billion for the joint-venture plant.

Mississippi is also home to a Nissan plant in Canton, which opened in 2003.

To lure the Japanese automakers, Mississippi offered $378 million in incentives to Nissan, while Toyota got $294 million.

The $1 billion in incentives may be too much for the Magnolia State to bear.

An available workforce was always going to be a key factor in the decision, experts have said, with the plant needing a significant number of employees ready and willing. Tough labor market situations are commonplace in the majority of Southern states, an unfortunate reality that leads us to where we go from here.

As always, we know our state and area leaders will not take lightly any project loss — even one yet to be officially confirmed.

These are the opportunities where Mississippi, and more specifically Northeast Mississippi, should take a step back and take stock of where to go from here.

While some factors regarding decisions like these might be out of our hands, others — such as prioritizing critical workforce development programs — can be realized to ensure a project like this doesn’t slip through our hands again.

Now is the time we — as a community, region and state — need to put innovative solutions on the table and discuss how to turn them into a reality in order to push Mississippi forward.

Online: http://www.djournal.com/

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Nov. 21

The Commercial Dispatch of Columbus on comments about LGBT people by Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins:

In Sunday’s Dispatch, Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins pulled no punches in his criticism of state leadership on the issue of economic development.

Higgins said that in his role as Mississippi Development Authority Director Glenn McCullough is prone to playing favorites by supporting sites around the state for projects, has failed to form a cohesive strategy for recruiting that goes beyond offering tax incentives and has failed in attracting and retaining quality project managers.

Higgins said Gov. Phil Bryant’s unyielding advocacy of HB1523 — which permits state businesses to openly discriminate against LGBT community — and his willingness to skate the issue of the state flag, with its conspicuous Confederate imagery, by passing it off to the voters, has become an impediment to recruiting industry wary of the intolerant image the state projects.

Since his arrival here 14 years ago, we have grown accustomed to Higgins’ plain-spoken, often crude manner.

In most cases, Higgins’ message, if not his manner, has been spot-on.

Over his time here, he has established his credibility. The industries that have arrived here under Higgins’ tenure — PACCAR, Airbus Helicopters, Steel Dynamics and Yokohama being the most prominent examples — make that argument.

So when Higgins talks, his words have weight.

In one particular aspect of his criticisms of the state’s economic development landscape, those words work to undermine his message.

Specifically, Higgins said Bryant’s devotion to HB1523 is an unforced error.

But in making that charge, he has made an unforced error of his own.

“I’m the least likely guy to be a (LGBT) advocate,” Higgins said. “I ain’t gonna beat one up or anything, but I’d just as soon not be around that s(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk).”

That’s an alarming statement, unacceptable even from someone from whom we have grown accustomed to plain talk.

Like everyone, Higgins is free to have his private opinions about LGBT people.

But when Higgins speaks in his role as LINK CEO, he speaks for all of us. When the best that can be said of an LGBT person is that you won’t beat them and that you don’t want to be in the presence of an LGBT person, it only affirms the negative message of HB1523 Higgins criticizes.

Unlike other instances when Higgins has used coarse language to make his point, this is not a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of decency for a group of people many of us know as family, friends and neighbors, a group not unfamiliar with rejection and even violence.

There is a line of decency and decorum that should not be crossed.

There are no exceptions, not even for our exceptional economic development CEO.

Online: http://www.cdispatch.com/

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