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Economic Impact of Mississippi’s Deadly Disasters

By Sandra Knispel | Published 30 May 2011 04:22pm | comments
Recovery after the deadly tornado struck Smithville on April 27 will be slow.

This month, exactly 75 years ago, a huge tornado destroyed Tupelo, killing more than 200 and wiping out close to 50 city blocks. What does it take to bounce back and how will the recent spate of natural disasters affect Mississippi’s economy? MPB’s Sandra Knispel reports.

Mississippi’s share of natural disasters has been disproportionately large since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, the oil spill last year, several devastating tornadoes in the past month, and the ongoing flooding in the west.

"The short-term effect is strong. The long-term effect we will recover from it. And we will start seeing that starting almost immediately,"
said Blake Wilson, president of the Mississippi Economic Council.

“The good news is that, while a disaster is devastating and horrible for those who are involved, economically following a disaster comes a rush of building and rebuilding and purchasing. If you remember after Katrina there was a rise in state sales tax actually," Wilson added.

But Wilson warns, replacing the jobs that have been lost because of the disasters will take longer than the immediate revenue increase due to necessary purchases like vehicles, building materials, furniture and appliances. And in the long-term, Mississippi’s economic development is not all but guaranteed, said Lewis Whitfield, senior vice president of the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo.

“We’ve made incremental progress in per capita income growth and in educational attainment. But we’re still behind the nation," Whitfield said.

In 2010, fewer than 16 percent of Magnolia state residents held a 4-year college degree. The direct result of too few college grads means that Mississippians on average earn $9,200 less each year than the national average, and that does not even take into account the short-term effects of the disasters. Sandra Knispel, MPB News. 

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Recovery after the deadly tornado struck Smithville on April 27 will be slow.


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