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Signs point to slowly improving economy

January 14, 2011

From Staff and Wire Reports

Signs of an improvement in the economy are coming locally in the form of an increase in retail inquiries, said Jon Maynard, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s president and CEO.
“Retail inquiries only follow confidence in the near-term economy,” he said.
Maynard says the numbers he hears from his colleagues elsewhere are “difficult at best. The relatively stable sales tax revenues indicate that Starkville is strong and as the economy grows, Starkville will become even stronger.”
He added: “The strength of the economy in Starkville allows us to be more proactive in recruiting new business and assisting the existing industries over communities that are otherwise not as strong.”
Maynard addressed the local economy on reports out of the state capital Thursday about Mississippi’s progress on rebounding from the recession.
Mississippi’s economy is strengthening but is not fully recovered from the recession, state economist Darrin Webb told lawmakers Thursday during a briefing at the Capitol. “We are behind the nation in terms of the timing of our recovery and also in terms of the pace of our recovery,” Webb said. Webb predicted it’ll be 2015 before Mississippi regains the employment level it had in February 2008 — the point at which the state started losing jobs.
Legislators received the fiscal briefing from Webb and state Treasurer Tate Reeves as part of the lengthy process of writing a budget for the year that begins July 1. Reeves said Mississippi is in good shape with its level of bond debt. Repaying the long-term debt is taking about 8.1 percent of the current year’s state budget.
“As businesses look to relocate and to locate jobs, they are concerned about where we are from a fiscal standpoint, certainly when compared to others we are competing against,” Reeves said. “The better we look from a fiscal standpoint, the better off we are and the more likely we are to see job creators locate in Mississippi.”
Reeves gave lawmakers a chart showing Mississippi’s total bond debt was $589 million in 1990. The level of debt grew rapidly during the 1990s, hitting nearly $2.3 billion in 2000. It grew until 2004, when it hit $3.1 billion, then declined for two years before starting to climb again. As of Dec. 31, the state had nearly $3.8 billion in bond debt.
Mississippi issues bonds to pay for big-ticket projects such as construction and repairs for highways and public buildings. It also issues bonds to help attract industries such as Nissan, which opened a manufacturing plant near Canton in 2003, and Toyota, which is scheduled to open a plant near Blue Springs this year.
Webb said housing starts are at the same level now in Mississippi as they were in 1991. He said housing, like other parts of the economy, is showing slow recovery.

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