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Mississippi Business Leaders Cautiously Optimistic

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 04 Feb 2011 02:26pm | comments
MDA Director Gray Swoope addresses a gathering of business leaders.

The new national unemployment numbers show the nation continuing a slow economic recovery. But business leaders in Mississippi are still wary about the recovery. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that some who run businesses are waiting to see how 2011 plays out.

Some of the state's top business leaders are cautiously optimistic about the future of the state's economy.

Hunter Arnold, who works with Waggoner Engineering a Jackson based Engineering firm, was among the crowd that gathering at a recent economic development conference in Jackson.

Arnold says his company is slowly hiring people but the recession taught them to be a little more cautious.

"It has set people a little back on their heels as to what they are comfortable doing, investing and taking risks. I am hoping that is going to settle down and people will be more willing to invest," Arnold said.

Russell Hatten owns a consulting company that helps other companies set up long term plans...he says he has more businesses asking him for help. Hatten says risk is just part of owning a business and companies that invest now could see a big pay off.

"And many of them are hedging their bets because right now there are some bargains out there. Those who have money and do have the plan can really get into business a lot more economically then I really think they will be able to in the next year or so," Hatten said.

Mississippi has seen some of that business investment come on line recently, such as the solar plant in Hattiesburg, Chevron expanding its plant in Pascagoula and Toyota gearing up.

John Turner, the director of Economic Development for Entergy Mississippi, says they are not hiring yet but if economic activity increases, they will have to respond.

"I think that towards the end of this year. We have got an aging workforce, so we are going to be look to do some things in the future and bring on new people and go through the transition smoothly," Turner said.

Mississippi's most recent unemployment rate was just over 10-percent, down from a high of 11-and-a-half percent, but still a point higher than the national rate, showing that Mississippi continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in economic recovery.

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MDA Director Gray Swoope addresses a gathering of business leaders.


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