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MDA’s Business Selection Process Questioned

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 15 Feb 2011 12:33pm | comments
MDA's Gray Swoope (left) talks to the House Ways and Means committee.

Mississippi lawmakers are questioning the process by which businesses are brought to the state.
MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that some are concerned that certain areas of the state are being excluded from development.

The Mississippi Development Authority has led the way on bringing a number of high profile businesses into the state in recent years such as Stion, Paccar, and Toyota.

But process of wooing those businesses is largely confidential .

That's a big problem for Representative Robert Johnson of Natchez who says the delta and southwest regions of the state are being overlooked for major projects.

"There are some serious valid concerns about areas of the state that are predominantly African-American, that are predominantly poor, high unemployment rates. None of these areas are getting new industries or new businesses. And nobody can really answer these questions except, 'the companies come where they want to go', and that is just not enough," Johnson said.

Johnson says there needs to be more transparency to ensure that all parts of the state have a fair chance.

The head of the MDA Gray Swoope spoke to the house ways and means committee to try and illuminate the process. Swoope says the confidentiality is a necessary part of protecting business who are considering moving to Mississippi

"When you are looking at the inner workings of their contracts. What they are selling, who they are selling to. (When you are looking at their) signed contracts. You're looking at their financials. You are doing what we call 'the scrubbing of the deal'. That is information that has to remain private," Swoope said.

Swoope says once the deal is final MDA opens up the records for examination and that the site selection process is based on business not politics.

Representative John Moore of Brandon says he also had concerns about the process, but thinks the M-D-A's track record should inspire confidence.

"We seem to be winning the good deals. And whatever these guys are doing is actually working. And we are assisting these large, solid businesses to move into Mississippi," Moore said.

Moore thinks other businesses will see development happening in Mississippi and be encouraged to consider doing business in the magnolia state.

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MDA's Gray Swoope (left) talks to the House Ways and Means committee.


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