Thursday, February 17, 2005

Governor visits Holly Springs
 •Barbour touts Mississippi’s potential

Staff Writer

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour shared his views on how the state can solve some of the most difficult problems it faces — a budget that will have to be cut or fed with more taxation and creating new jobs.

“Often in life solving your problems leads you to seizing your opportunities,” he said. “Mississippi has the potential to be ahead of the rest of the country economically.”

Barbour was guest speaker Tuesday at the quarterly luncheon of the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce which drew an audience of over 250.

He said he is not in favor of raising taxes, but rather he favors asking the legislature to control spending in state agencies and departments like education.

He thinks the private sector can be relied on to create jobs for a changing and global market. State government can assist economic growth in the private sector by overhauling workforce training to meet the requirements of a modern computer and technology driven manufacturing and service industry, he said. The state should also take an important but smaller role in economic expansion by helping big business with some infrastructure costs.

Citing job statistics, the governor said 39,000 manufacturing jobs in the state were lost during the four years of the previous administration. He wants to continue to rebuild the manufacturing sector and be ready for an expected surge in growth in the service industry - particularly here in North Mississippi where gains are likely in the offing in the distribution sector.

“We are going to continue to grow our manufacturing base in Mississippi, but we’re going to grow other industries faster,” he said, citing FedEx Ground’s plans for building a modern distribution plant in Olive Branch.

FedEx Ground construction will be built with $58 million by state and local government will only put in $3 million to assist with the infrastructure, he said.

“That’s the right balance,” said Barbour. “We’ve got to get out of the idea of buying industries. Government is not an investment bank.”

Barbour said opportunities to tie in to the Memphis’ distribution industry are expected to come with the construction of I-69 that will sweep south and westward through Mississippi.

“That’s the way we are going to do economic development in Mississippi - through this corridor right in here in I-69. I believe it can take distribution and grow it enormously in Mississippi,” he said.

The governor spent some time discussing the state’s budget problems and said if government will make the cost savings this year that the state budget will be in structural balance next year.

He predicted a difficult budget session with no politically popular solutions.

“Taxes and spending are the issues,” Barbour said. “I remind you the government has no money except the money we take from you, the taxpayer. I’m against raising anybody’s taxes. Period. If you raise taxes, the legislature will spend it. Raising taxes is the enemy of control in spending.”

He said government should live within means like every person and every family does.

During the luncheon, Chamber president Scott Beggs presented a plaque to Lavora Blake for years of valuable and continued service to the chamber, particularly with respect to ticket sales at chamber-sponsored events.

He also recognized Lois Swanee, curator of the Marshall County Historical Museum, on her birthday, calling her a “pillar of the community. Her heart and soul has been in Holly Springs for many years and we wouldn’t be what we are without her,” he said.

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