The Mississippi Economic Council hosted their 71st annual meeting with business leaders across the state. 

The Mississippi Economic Council is the voice of business in the state of Mississippi and has been since 1949. MEC has more than 11,000 members from 1,100 member firms throughout Mississippi.

This years annual meeting featured a panel discussion by Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director John Rounsaville, Southeast Region District Director of the U.S. Small Business Association, Janita Stewart and Executive Director of the Mississippi Office of Workforce Development, Ryan Miller.

Governor Tate Reeves was also a key speaker at the event.

Governor Reeves spoke to business members and reflected on the launch of Restart Mississippi. This program was initially begun as a way to talk about how to restart Mississippi’s economy coming out of COVID-19. Reeves said it was used to look at short term and long term needs to grow.

“When I think about some of the recommendations that came out of restart Mississippi i truly see it as a road map to Mississippi’s future growth and prosperity,” said Reeves.

Reeves said Mississippi’s success over the last year has not been due to lawmakers or legislation, but the risks business owners have assumed in order to make sure people can get back to work.

Reeves commented on his previous decision during COVID-19 to only allow essential businesses to remain open, which was roughly 85% of Mississippi’s businesses. While he says all decisions were made based on data and for health safety, he said the biggest regret he has from 2020 is labeling some businesses essential and others not.

“As I look back on that I realize I made a mistake, because the fact of the matter is, every single business in Mississippi is essential,” said Reeves. “If you are depending on a small business to provide for your family, that is an essential business to you and your family.”

He shared his appreciation for the business community and their decision to stay and work in Mississippi.

Reeves said it is his mission as Governor is to focus on job creation, economic development and economic growth. He said there will be a few things necessary to be successful in that.

Revenue reports for just the state of Mississippi budget have been over sine die estimates nearly every month, even during the height of the pandemic. In May, it was reported the total year to date budget was over $1 billion over estimates.

Businesses and economic factors have no doubt influenced continued growth.

During the panel discussion Rounsaville commented on how they plan to keep Mississippi competitive economically even after COVID-19.

“Step one is the fact that we kept our economy open,” said Rounsaville. “The Governor, while managing the pandemic I think very effectively, kept the state open. That meant for us from an economic development standpoint that we did not lose ground.”

He added that in fact the state gained more economic ground in the last year.

While he didn’t know specifics on how Mississippi was holding up compared to other states, he did say the Southeastern region of the U.S. was doing very well economically.

“I would anticipate that our competitor states had good years as well,” said Rounsaville. He said it is important for the state to compare itself to other surrounding states to know where to grow and increase.

Rounsaville said growth during the pandemic was high as well, specifically from business and industries who had already located in the state and took the opportunity to expand.

Ryan Miller, Director of the Office of Workforce Development talked about their new platform Accelerate MS.

“Accelerate Mississippi is what I refer to as a lens, an office that is meant to focus all of our resources and assets throughout the state as it relates to workforce development strategy into a much more holistic approach,” said Miller.

Accelerate MS has been promoted by the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the house and will compete with platforms used in other neighboring states. It will allow workforce agencies to better coordinate their efforts when it comes to workforce issues.

MEC also announced the new Chairman as Leon Collins. He will replace current Chairman Anthony Wilson.