The Weekly Northside Sun
A lot of Mississippians are happy with our existing state of affairs. Indeed, we are the most religious and generous state in the nation. We have great hunting and fishing, little pollution, great weather and plenty of room.
Mississippi is one of the least materialistic states in the country. Many Mississippians are more concerned with fearing God, helping others and being friendly than getting rich. Money isn’t everything.
But money helps. Good jobs are a good thing. Progress allows better health care, education, transportation and a host of other nice things.
So count me among the many Mississippians who would like to see economic progress in our state. As it stands now, Mississippi is losing population for the first time in 50 years.
How do we turn this around? What would Mississippi have to do to get on the economic fast track like North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia?
Mississippi is in the heart of the South, the fastest growing region of the richest country in the history of the world. There is an opportunity for growth.
But to grow, Mississippi has to attract outside people and outside money. This means paying attention to the impression we make to the rest of the country.
Mississippi needs to be seen throughout the nation as a progressive state, not a backward state. How do we do that?
It’s public relations. PR. We have to sell ourselves. That means focusing on an image that appeals to the rest of the nation and world, not just ourselves.
First off, change the flag. A flag is symbolic. The Confederate battle flag sends a terrible signal. We’re (literally) waving a flag to the rest of nation shouting, “Look at us! We’re stuck in the historic mud!”
Have you noticed how the national media seems to have given us a free pass on our flag? That’s because the nation collectively sighs and says, “Well, what do you expect? It’s Mississippi.” This is the worst possible way to attract outside investment.
This is not an argument about the Civil War or slavery or tradition or all the brave young men who sacrificed their lives 170 years ago. This is about shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of economic development. Our state is desperately in need of leadership on this issue. This will cost very little money.
Then there is education spending. When Mississippi has the lowest per pupil spending, it reinforces all the negative stereotypes about our state. We need to spend as much as the average of the southeastern states. It’s not the formula that matters. It’s the amount we spend compared with our neighboring states. Right now, we are the lowest and dropping.
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