Tag Archives: phil hardwick

Characteristics of Great Streets

Depending on the perspective, there are good streets and not-so-good streets.  And then there are great streets.  This writer has a bias toward streets that are canopied. In Mississippi, that means streets that have treetops over them. Some streets in Ocean Springs, Jackson and Laurel come to mind. This column is about great streets as defined by the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), an organization whose stated purpose is to help people create and sustain public places that build community.

A street is generally defined as a public thoroughfare, usually paved, in a village or town, and usually includes adjacent sidewalks and buildings.  A street is different from a highway, which is defined as a roadway between two towns.  PPS sees streets as places.   Although the organization is obviously urban-oriented, as one can readily deduce from viewing its Web site at http://www.pps.org, my guess is that it would embrace the courthouse square of the South as a great place.  The reason is that the classic courthouse square scene is the place that brings the community together.  It is there that political rallies, arts and crafts sales and a variety of public events are held, all wrapped with commercial storefronts.

From this writer’s perspective a good street is one that achieves its purpose.  If a street is conceived as built as a major traffic artery, then it will probably have multiple lanes and limited access.  These type streets typically are located in commercial areas.  Sometimes rapid growth can result in four-lane traffic arteries running right through residential areas.  Such would then be an example of a less than desirable street.

PPS has identified the following ten qualities that contribute to the success of great streets:

  • Attractions & Destinations. Having something to do gives people a reason to come to a place—and to return again and again. When there is nothing to do, a space will remain empty, which can lead to other problems. In planning attractions and destinations, it is important to consider a wide range of activities for: men and women; people of different ages; different times of day, week and year; and for people alone and in groups.
  • Identity & Image. Whether a space has a good image and identity is key to its success. Creating a positive image requires keeping a place clean and well-maintained, as well as fostering a sense of identity. This identity can originate in showcasing local assets. Businesses, pedestrians, and driver will then elevate their behavior to this vision and sense of place.
  • Active Edge Uses. Buildings bases should be human-scaled and allow for interaction between indoors and out. Preferably, there are active ground floor uses that create valuable experiences along a street for both pedestrians and motorists. These edge uses should be active year-round and unite both sides of the street.
  • Amenities. Successful streets provide amenities to support a variety of activities. These include attractive waste receptacles to maintain cleanliness, street lighting to enhance safety, bicycle racks, and both private and public seating options—the importance of giving people the choice to sit where they want is generally underestimated. Cluster street amenities to support their use.
  • Management. An active entity that manages the space is central to a street’s success. This requires not only keeping the space clean and safe, but also managing tenants and programming the space to generate daily activity. Events can run the gamut from small street performances to sidewalk sales to cultural, civic or seasonal celebrations.
  • Seasonal Strategies. In places without a strong management presence or variety of activities, it is often difficult to attract people year-round. Utilize seasonal strategies, like holiday markets, parades and recreational activities to activate the street during all times of the year. If a street offers a unique and attractive experience, weather is often less of a factor than people initially assume.
  • Diverse User Groups. As mentioned previously, it is essential to provide activities for different groups. Mixing people of different race, gender, age, and income level ensures that no one group dominates the space and makes others feel unwelcome and out of place.
  • Traffic, Transit & the Pedestrian. A successful street is easy to get to and get through; it is visible both from a distance and up close. Automobile traffic cannot dominate the space and preclude the comfort of other modes. This is generally accomplished by slowing speeds and sharing street space with a range of transportation options.
  • Blending of Uses and Modes. Ground floor uses and retail activities should spill out into the sidewalks and streets to blur the distinction between public and private space.
  • Protects Neighborhoods. Great streets support the context around them. There should be clear transitions from commercial streets to nearby residential neighborhoods, communicating a change in surroundings with a concomitant change in street character.

There you have it.  Now, where are the great streets in your community?

 

House not selling? Try St. Joseph

FROM THE GROUND UP by Phil Hardwick

Spring is the best time of year to sell a house. But what if the house still isn’t selling after springtime? The seller could lower the price, increase marketing efforts or maybe call on St. Joseph.

Does planting an upside down statuette in your front yard increase the odds that your house will sell sooner than later? If it is a statuette of St. Joseph the answer is “yes,” according to quite a few people.

The dream of just about every seller of real estate is to sell the property for the listed price within twenty-four hours of it being listed. Every seller wants to get top dollar for their real estate. After that desire comes the wish to sell the property fast. Some markets are so hot that listing agents have prospective buyers already signed up before the agents even get certain listings. Then there are markets where properties are on the market for months at a time. Sellers in such situations may want to investigate the possibility of turning to St. Joseph, patron saint of home life.

What is a patron saint?  And anyway, who is St. Joseph?

This inquiring mind went straight to the catholic.org web site to learn more.  According the web site, patron saints are chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of life. These areas can include occupations, illnesses, churches, countries, causes — anything that is important to people. Although, popes have named patron saints, patrons can be chosen by other individuals or groups as well. Usually, patron saints are chosen by individuals because an interest, talent, or event in their lives aligns with the special area.  For example, many people who travel often wear a St. Christopher medal because he is the patron saint of travelers.   For those really interested in the subject of patron saints, there is a web site that lists patron saints by topic and by name. It is online at

http://www.catholic-saints.info/patron-saints/list-of-patron-saints-patronage.htm

Why is St. Joseph the patron saint of real estate?  Well, the reasoning goes that because St. Joseph was a carpenter, he was also a homebuilder, i.e. he worked on homes. He also taught his son Jesus the carpentering trade.  He was also noted for his willingness to do what God told him.  He also was noted for acting fast, such as when he was told to immediately flee to Egypt.  As one might imagine, Joseph is the patron saint of a lot of things, from fathers to the diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi. Yes, many cities and states have patron saints. Mary is the patron saint of Mississippi.

There is even a book, ST. JOSEPH, MY REAL ESTATE AGENT – Why the Patron Saint of Home Life Is the Patron Saint of Home-Selling by Stephen J. Binz (Servant Books), that discusses the use of St. Joseph to sell one’s home.  “Hundreds of thousands of people, including the author, have sold their homes under the patronage of St. Joseph, whose intercession they sought after burying his statue in their yard,” according to the promotional material.

So, does this practice of burying St. Joseph in one’s front yard really work?  Far be it from me to say for certain.  Several years ago when I wrote a column on this subject I received several letters from people who swear by the practice.  One woman told me that her house had been on the market for months with no results.  The day after she buried a St. Joseph statuette, she received an offer. I also received a letter from another woman who said that it was the silliest thing she had ever heard, and she told her husband what he could do with the statuette when he suggested that they try using it to sell their house.  The Internet is filled with testimonials and articles pro and con on the practice.  Another Internet resource is https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/property-rites/which lists this subject.  Interestingly, it does not confirm or debunk this “urban legend,” but offers anecdotal stories and opinions.  Like all matters of faith, it about belief and prayer.  One source said that the praying is more important than the use of the statuette.

Whatever one might believe regarding this practice it probably would not hurt to follow the advice of most real estate agents when they recommend that it is also a good idea to price your property competitively, market it properly and keep it ready for prospective buyers to inspect it on a moment’s notice.

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Should cities offer incentives to individuals?

Dear Mayor:
I’m writing to let you know that my spouse and I have recently decided to relocate to another community. We are in our mid-50’s and have income over $200,000 per year. We plan on buying a house in the city. It will be in the $600,000 range. We are in excellent health and have no children. We travel around the world presenting seminars to leading technology companies. We are considering doing two seminars per year in the city that we move to. These seminars will bring in approximately 100 business leaders for three days.

The city that we will move to will have the following attributes:

  • A first-class conference hotel;
  • Good medical facilities;
  • An airport with connections to an international airport;
  • A college or university within 30 miles; and
  • Ubiquitous high speed internet access.

If your city meets the above qualifications and you are interested in having us as residents, please forward the amount and type of your financial incentives by the deadline stated in the attached data sheet by close of business 90 days from today. We will consider your bid and that of other cities within 30 days of the deadline referenced above and let you know if we select your city.

Very truly yours,

Prospective Residents

*****

Sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? A high-income couple asking cities to offer them incentives to move there.

But wait. If you’re the mayor of a city that met the qualifications, wouldn’t you want these residents? They don’t have children that have to be educated in your schools. They don’t add much to required city services. The property taxes on their house will add to the city’s revenue. They will bring in visitors who will spend money and stay in hotels that probably have an additional tourism tax. Wouldn’t it be worth offering them something to move to your city?

Let’s say that you do want these residents and that you have a policy of offering incentives to individuals. How much would your incentive be?

Without going through the numbers, one way to determine such an incentive, as a minimum, would be to figure out what their contribution to the city’s revenue minus the city’s cost. If the number is positive, then determine a rate of return on the city’s offering, or investment. If the return on investment meets the city’s desired return, then the prospective residents could be offered that amount in incentives, which could be cash, reduced taxes for a certain period of time or maybe a requirement that they bring a certain about of hotel revenue from out-of-town visitors.

The reason this subject is on my mind right now is – you guessed it – Amazon’s procedure for selecting its second city headquarters, aka HQ2. It invited cities to bid on its final selection, or winner. It says on its website that it expects to “invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.” Amazon received 238 proposals from cities, some of which offered incentives in the billions. It then narrowed the list to 20 cities. Check out Amazon’s HQ2 webpage for more a list of the 20 cities and more information – https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=17044620011

The process has not without controversy. In a January 28, 2018 Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Mayors, Say No to Amazon,” Richard Florida, professor at the University of Toronto and author of several books, including The Urban Crisis, writes:

“At heart the HQ2 competition is a ruse. Amazon without a doubt already has a very good idea of where it wants to put its new headquarters… If the mayors on Amazon’s short list want to stay true to their progressive roots, they should stand together instead of allowing Amazon to divide and conquer.”

The economic development incentives game has changed over the years.

Here’s the way it used to be when it came to economic development incentives: The company will locate a facility in the community if given the requested incentives.

Here’s the way it is now: The company invites several communities to offer incentives and the company will then decide where to locate the facility.

Meanwhile, back to the silly letter above. Mayor, before offering incentives, make sure that there will be a return on investment. Be careful when incentives are not justified.

Is there a case for incentives that do not meet this requirement? The answer is yes. If landing a facility that results in image improvement and long term benefits it may be worth it. One nearby state paid more per job than it would ever receive in benefits. However, it did so knowingly because its strategy was to land an international company that would improve the image of the state and lure other companies to the area. And it worked.

We talk a lot about these big projects, but let us not forget that sometimes one household at a time is rather good economic development for a community.

Just something to think about.

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The ABCs of Economic Development for Small Towns

Mayors of just about all small towns are part-time individuals interested and willing to serve their communities. They do not get paid very much and most are not holders of college degrees in economic or community development. They learn quickly that there is a lot to learn about being the CEO of a small town.

One of the many resources for small town mayors to learn about economic development and other functions of local government is the Mississippi Municipal League, especially the League’s Annual Conference. There are dozens of educational opportunities for local officials at the event. One of the presentations that I make at the Conference is entitled “The ABC’s of Economic Development for Small Towns.”

After my most recent presentation a mayor of a small town pointed out that most mayors in Mississippi are not fortunate enough to attend the training because of lack of funds or because of scheduling conflicts. After all, most part-time mayors have other jobs. She also said that many business people would benefit from the presentation. So taking her que, here is an abbreviated version of the presentation for those unable to attend in person.

A  is for Asset-based economic development. Identify the assets in your community that you can capitalize on. These can range from natural interests to historic distinctions.

B is for Plan B. The best leaders are the ones who can manage Plan B. Many elected leaders go into office with big plans, only to find out that other priorities come first.

C is for CDBG, the Community Development Block Grant program. Administered by the Mississippi Development Authority, helps local units of government realize their potential by providing funds necessary to ensure basic community services, environmental quality and economic opportunities for their residents.

D is for Decisions, which tend to be data-driven or values-driven.

E is for Economy. What drives your town’s economy? Where does the money come from that comes into your community? Manufacturing? Tourism? Transfer payments? Out-of-towners passing through?

F is for Followers. You are the leader. Who’s following you – and what do they want?

G is for Goals, the mileposts along the highway to achieving the vision. Goals are SMART, the acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

H is for Heroes. Who is going to step forward when you need it the most?

I is for Incentives. Economic prospects are driven by location, workforce and incentives. In today’s economic development world incentives are more of a factor than ever.

J is for Jobs. Economic development is the process of increasing the wealth in your town through creation, recruitment and retention of JOBS.

K is for Keystone, the central, topmost stone of an arch (an essential part). Who or what is the keystone of your town? What’s holding it up, so to speak?

L is for Legacy. A lifetime of achievement is often reduced to one incident or program. What will be your legacy?

M is for Meetings, especially productive meetings – with board, with citizens, with developers and with prospects. Setting and controlling the agenda is controlling the meeting.

N is for Numbers, or measurements that will quantify your town’s progress. Decide what to things measure, and measure them regularly.

O is for Observation. “You can learn a lot by watching,” according to Yogi Berra. Stop looking for the answers you expect to find. Be objective.

P is for People, or demographics. Know and understand your people.

Q is for Quality. If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

R is for Responsibility. Most strategic plans fail because there is no accountability or responsibility. Hold people accountable.

S is for Story. What is your town’s story, and how can you capitalize on it?

T is for Taxes. Understand the source of taxes in your town and how they can be affected.

U is for Unique. What makes your town unique?

V is for Vision – your vision and your town’s vision. Are they the same?

W is for World View. How does globalization affect your town?

X  is for X-Ray. Have some outside expert look “into” your town.

Y is for Youth, the future of your town. What do they think about the future? Do you have a Mayor’s Youth Council?

Z is for Zeal, the synonym for passion. One big difference in towns that succeed and those that do not is passionate leadership.

Q & A with Knox Ross

It’s been a while since I had a chance to visit with former Pelahatchie Mayor Knox Ross so I reached out to him online. Here’s my interview with the personable and accomplished Ross.

  1. What are you doing these days?

I am completing an 11-month assignment as the CEO of the Coordinating and Development Corporation in Shreveport. The CDC is an economic development and workforce training organization that serves the ten parishes of Northwest Louisiana and coordinates efforts in Arkansas and Texas. Most of my time here has been spent restructuring the organization and placing it on firm financial footing for the future. I am returning to Mississippi after the end of my assignment here, but I will remain associated with the organization as a consultant for the next year. It has been a great experience to learn how other states and other local governments operate. It certainly makes me appreciate some things that Mississippi does better, but also makes me aware of areas for improvement.

I also spend a good bit of time doing my work with the Southern Rail Commission, principally promoting the reestablishment of Amtrak service east of New Orleans and on the I-20 corridor. I am also doing work as a consultant for turnaround situations and for government related interests. I enjoy serving as a “fixer” of sorts.

  1. What is the Southern Rail Commission?

The SRC is a commission created by an act of Congress to engage and inform public and private rail interests to support and influence Southeast rail initiatives. It consists of the states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and our commissioners are appointed by our respective Governors. Our commission has been in existence since 1982, and was instrumental in not only establishing Amtrak service on the Gulf Coast, but served as the operator of the daily service between New Orleans and Mobile in the 1990’s. We work closely with Amtrak, our host freight railroad partners, and our federal, state, and local elected officials to improve existing Amtrak services and to work toward new service on the Gulf Coast, I-20, and Baton Rouge/New Orleans corridors. We worked closely with Senators Cochran and Wicker to form the Gulf Coast Working Group that recently reported to Congress on the requirements to restart Amtrak service on the Gulf Coast. We also worked with Senator Cochran to provide assistance to our Coast cities to prepare their stations to receive the new service.  We keep an ongoing record of our work on our website at www.southernrailcommission.org

  1. How did you get involved in it?

Kay Kell, the former City Manager of Pascagoula, a commissioner and former Chairman, asked Governor Barbour to appoint me. She sees the economic benefit of transportation choices, especially one like passenger rail that would bring people to the hearts of the cities along the coast. I shared her vision, and she continues to be a champion of passenger rail in this state and I remain grateful to her for the opportunity. My involvement with the SRC has allowed me to tell our story and work closely with leaders from around the country who are at the forefront of providing transportation choices to their citizens and positioning their areas to be competitive in the fast evolving world economy.

  1. What spurred you interest in railroading?

I have always been fascinated with trains and transportation in general. After becoming mayor, and being able to learn more about the interaction of economic development and transportation, I began to pay more attention to it. I had the privilege of serving as Chair of the Transportation Advocacy Committee for the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, and as Chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Jackson Metropolitan Statistical Area. Senator Wicker has been a great supporter of transportation, especially coordinating the multiple forms to make it easier and more efficient for people and goods to move from place to place. The SRC’s work with him and his staff has opened several doors for me to learn more about passenger and freight rail and its role in our transportation system. The more I learn, the more interesting it becomes.

  1. As a former mayor of a successful small town, what advice would you give to a new small town mayor?

Make friends with other successful mayors. They are delighted to share their knowledge, many times because they are also looking for new ideas. Take advantage of the educational and networking opportunities provided by the Mississippi Municipal League. These relationships have been invaluable to me. Participate in your Planning and Development District. The Central PDD, especially Mitzi Stubbs, did more to help our town prosper than anyone. Principally, just listen. I have so many people that have given me good, sound advice. I find that, so many times, there is a great temptation when in elected office, to think you are all of the sudden very smart and know all the answers. Just always remember one never knows all the answers and there is always an opportunity to learn a new, better way. Also, be able to admit when you are wrong. A rare thing in elective office, but necessary nonetheless.

  1. What was your proudest accomplishment as Mayor?

Changing the perception of our town. Working with a great team of Aldermen and employees to make Pelahatchie a town it citizens could be proud of.

  1. Do you miss politics?

I miss my mayor friends and the interaction with them. I miss working on and thinking about the opportunities and problems that Pelahatchie faces. I still operate in the political world with regard to the SRC and working with local governments. The rest of it?  No.

  1. What are your future plans?

I am now back in Pelahatchie full time. I am working on our SRC projects and pursuing opportunities to work with business and government entities to make them more efficient and responsive. I plan to put the unique knowledge I have gained in both the business and government sectors to work helping others.

Orientation vs Onboarding

In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. – Jim Collins, author of Good to Great – Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t

Jim Collins had it right. But hiring the right people and putting them in the right place in the organization is just the beginning. After the hiring comes the orientation. And after the orientation comes the onboarding. In this column we will discuss the difference between the two, emphasize why onboarding is so important and give some examples.

Let’s begin with how not to do orientation. The worst example of orientation this writer has ever heard of went something like this:

“There’s the desk. There’s the phone. Good luck kid. You’re on your own.”

Ouch. Unfortunately, more than a few employees feel that they were not given a proper orientation for the job that they were hired to do. Some of it involved basic things, such as how to make copies or how to transfer a telephone call. Some of it involved major things such as what to do id a VIP calls or shows up at work.

What is orientation?

For our purposes, orientation is the process of introducing and aligning a new employee to the practices of the new employer, such as new surroundings, activities, etc.  It is typically a brief event, sometimes only one day. It covers the essentials, things like where to park, where and when to go to lunch, location of bathrooms, use of computers, forms, email, policies and procedures. It is in effect a checklist.  It usually occurs in the first day or few days of employment.

What is onboarding?

Onboarding is often described as organizational socialization. There is no one size fits all when it comes to onboarding because each company is different. Onboarding goes on much longer than orientation. It is designed to integrate and match the employee’s personality, skills and behavior with the practices, customs and values of the organization. By the way, training is different than orientation and onboarding.

Why do onboarding?

According to a 2007 study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years. Also consider Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report that was issued in 2014. It found that that more that employees believe the job market is opening up, the less likely they may be to stay in roles that don’t meet their needs and expectations.  The study found that more than half of employees (51%) say they are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings, and 35% of workers report changing jobs within the past three years.

Each workday, Gallup posts the percentage of employees “weekly engaged at work” on the News section of gallup.com. As this column is being written, the number stands at 36.7%, a percentage that has moved up five points in recent weeks. Gallup defines engaged employees “… as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” Gallup categorizes workers as “engaged” based on their responses to key workplace elements it has found predict important organizational performance outcomes. Onboarding increases the likelihood that employees will remained engaged employees.

Another reason to do onboarding is that it shows that the company is making an investment in its employees. Is there a way to determine if this investment pays off? Companies that value employees are more successful if one considers the return on investment in Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. Tracked for 15 years: Stock in Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” way outperformed both the S&P 500 and the Russell 3000 indices. Specifically, from 1997 – 2013 the S&P 500 had an annualized stock market return of 6.04%, the Russell 3000 had an annualized return of 6.41% and the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work Far had an annualized return of 11.8%.

Implementing Onboarding at Your Company

Depending on the size of your company an onboarding plan may need to involve coordination between many departments. It is a process that requires time and commitment.

One of the best and most comprehensive onboarding programs is that of Disney’s College Program. Check out the website for ideas about what to include in the onboarding process. It’s at
http://cp.disneycareers.com/en/onboarding/fl/default/

Zappo’s onboarding process has gotten a lot of attention because of its thoroughness and emphasis on culture at the organization. At the end of the first month, any new employee who doesn’t feel they’re a good fit is offered $2,000 to quit.

Sapling, a San Francisco company that specializes in onboarding, states that effective onboarding programs share the themes listed below.

1.Make the investment: these onboarding programs are not an accident; the companies listed invest heavily in time and money to support new employees to be successful.
2. Start early: make sure everything is ready before the employee starts their first day to make sure they can hit the ground running.

3. Company Culture is everything: over invest in making new employees feel welcome and aligned with company values.

4. Get the team involved: Welcoming them into an inclusive, dynamic team with lots of communication that will have real returns on their ability to integrate with the team effectively.

5. Clear Roadmap: Giving new employees a clear and structured path for their integration into the company supports them to be productive and successful in their new role.

6. Training and development: Help new employees learn with the right training tools, and by giving them practical skills so they can start contributing as soon as possible.

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Looking at Mississippi from an Ireland reporter’s eyes

August 10, 2017. It is the final morning of a wonderful vacation in Ireland. Up early, I reflect on the kind and welcoming people of Ireland we have met. I marvel at Ireland’s ability to attract businesses to the Emerald Isle. Google, Accenture, Facebook, Paypal. The list goes on and on. I compare and contrast Ireland’s business attraction efforts with those of Mississippi. Lots of similarities, especially when it comes to using tax incentives as inducements.

Being the news junkie I am I go down to the lobby of the Dublin hotel and fetch the day’s edition of the Irish Times. There in the top right hand corner of the front page I discover this 5 x 2.5 inch preview box: “Travels in Trump’s America. Oxford, Mississippi attempts to move on from its history of segregation.”

Oh no, I think. Here we go again. Another example of Mississippi’s history of race relations continuing to be the proverbial albatross around its neck. How does that affect international business attraction? I tell myself not get too defensive. Perhaps the article will turn out to be positive. After all, Oxford, Mississippi is a desirable place. I open to page nine. The headline there reads, “Segregation still alive and well in the deep south.” I delve into the report. My coffee is getting cold.

The story is part of a series about an Irish Times reporter’s visit to America. Each day a different state. I read page nine.

In the middle of the page is a large black and white photograph of James Meredith surrounded by students at Ole Miss in 1962. Below are two more photographs. These are in color and depict two African-American women. In bold print below them reads, “Mississippi, a state with a population of approximately three million, still has one of the highest proportions of black people in the US.”

The article opens with an account of James Meredith’s entry into Ole Miss and the surrounding events followed by the reporter’s perception of Oxford today. It is mostly complimentary. The opening sentence: “Today the old university town of Oxford, Mississippi, is the picture of of southern refinement.” The closing sentence: “After a leisurely stroll around the bookshops I reluctantly leave the slow-paced vibe and drive westward through Mississippi.”

The next paragraph has a subhead: “Slave Labor,” and then goes on to recount a brief demographic history of the Delta followed by the subject of the Cleveland School District case.” It’s a long section. The article’s closing sentence reads, “As I leave Cleveland and trace the trajectory of the Mississippi river upstream toward Memphis, it’s clear the problem of racial segregation has yet to be resolved.”

My reaction to this article is conditioned by my background in economic development. I think about what it would be like if on this day if I was on a recruiting trip to Ireland to meet with a company about opening a branch office or manufacturing facility in Mississippi. Then I think about Mississippi’s current international recruiting efforts.

In spite of stories like the above in world newspapers the Mississippi Development Authority, the state’s business recruiting agency, is doing admiral, even incredible work. Its successes have been recognized recently with national awards and rankings in economic development and business magazines. It has offices in other countries. German manufacturer Continental Tire has a plant under construction. International companies such as PACCAR, Airbus Helicopters and Yokohama Tire, are changing the economic landscape in the Golden Triangle. Nissan and Toyota have world-class manufacturing facilities in Mississippi. We are accomplishing significant workforce development outcomes with our nationally-ranked community colleges in partnership with international companies.

So where do we go from here? The answer is that we keep focusing on the good things and working on the not-so-good things. One strategy that works well in spite of the above newspaper reporter’s visit is to attract visitors to Mississippi so that they can see for themselves. And let’s not forget the student international visitors. According to the US Global Leadership Coalition, during 2015, 3,101 international students were enrolled in Mississippi colleges and universities and contributed $65 million to the Mississippi economy. Hopefully they had a positive experience and will tell their stories in their home countries.

Also, we must remember that in spite of our image overall, business leaders evaluate relocations based on many factors.

Mississippi is a paradox in so many ways. It has some of the best things in the world going for it while at the same time having many things that need some work. It is not a one-subject story.

Link to the Irish Times article:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/us/history-of-segregation-still-evident-in-mississippi-region-1.3181796