Hosemann talks biz data, voter turnout


Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann was the keynote speaker at Monday’s Starkville Rotary Club meeting, where he discussed a recent business survey conducted by his office, along with voter turnout (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN Editor

Forget tax incentives and infrastructure - the factors businesses in Mississippi are looking for to be successful are an educated workforce and honesty in employees, according to a recent survey conducted by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.

This data and more was presented by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann at the Starkville Rotary Club on Monday as part of his tour around the state showing off the data.

In the most recent survey conducted by his office, Hosemann said roughly 5,300 companies ranging from large to small responded to have their needs heard by state policymakers.

“The most important thing (to businesses) was an educated workforce,” Hosemann said. “There wasn’t even a close second to our state”

This survey, which saw its results released about four weeks ago, comes on the heels of the office rolling out Ya’ll Business - a unique online platform that can tell projected growth for areas using consumer and census data.

More than 96 percent of the responses were from businesses with less than 50 employees, according to Hosemann’s office.

“What’s the second (most important)? Second is sitting in the room,” Hosemann said, pointing to Rotarians. “It’s community support. If you take an educated workforce and community support, that is more than 50 percent of what any business needs to profit.”

When asked what qualities are most important in an educated workforce, more than 30 percent of respondents said work ethic, while roughly 25 percent cited honesty.

The question then moves to how to retain that workforce. According to the survey, reasonable wages factored out to be the most important, followed by employment opportunities. Both hovered over 20 percent for the respondents.

Hosemann then discussed what he believes to be a misconception regarding tax incentives to lure business.

“You don’t have to give your money away in order to be attractive,” Hosemann said, pointing to the aforementioned factors that businesses cited as important. “The last thing they need is tax incentives. When you denigrate that tax base, you denigrate education and infrastructure along with everything else you do.”

Problems mentioned by Hosemann, though, came in the form of disconnects between business and education.

Hosemann said schools have been encouraged to place sole value on concepts like graduation rates and standardized test scores, instead of job preparedness and training.

“That’s part of my knocking on these doors,” Hosemann said in reference to his tour promoting the survey data. “That’s where (the school’s) mindset has been and where we have motivated them with legislation to be.”

Businesses don’t fare much better in their educational interests, according to the survey. The report says roughly 70 percent of small and large companies who responded to the survey said their companies were not interested in partnering with educational entities at any level.

But junior colleges still represent a major driver for workforce development in the state, Hosemann said.

He then cited an effort at Jones County Junior College with 10 surrounding counties paying for 11th and 12th grade students to attend dual-enrollment classes.

In the Golden Triangle, he praised the efforts of firms like Columbus-based McCrary-West Construction - a company that is involved in job fair events geared toward bridging the gap for in-demand blue-collar jobs with good pay.

“I think businesses by necessity will become more and more involved in the education process,” Hosemann concluded.

VOTER TURNOUT

As could likely be expected, Hosemann was not optimistic about voter turnout in Tuesday’s runoff, which features a Democrat race for U.S. Senate and a Republican runoff for the Third Congressional District for many in the Golden Triangle.

“If we get 10 percent I’ll be surprised,” Hosemann told the Starkville Daily News. “You’re going to elect what may well be the next congressman for this district, similarly for the senate with the Democrats.”

He referred to both as important positions that would likely be decided by tight races.

“If you’re a Democrat, go cast a ballot,” Hosemann, a Republican, said, urging those across party lines to cast ballots. “Don’t complain and don’t call talk radio or complain in church how horrible things are if you don’t cast a ballot.”

While turnout might be low, Hosemann proudly said the state of Mississippi’s election process would still be run effectively.

He said Mississippi is still the only state that has not been sued for voter ID laws and is not among the 28 states where federal election inspectors oversee the vote

These states include Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, to name a few.

“It did not include Mississippi,” Hosemann said. “For the first time since probably the 60s, we had no federal observers in the state. Because we run the elections right.”

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