asked the question: What do you think would be the most effective law(s) that the state legislature could pass this session that would encourage economic development, job growth and small business growth?
Here are some of their responses:
Local governments in South Mississippi need access to financial resources so that they can effectively address infrastructure needs. Infrastructure (strong transportation networks, effective water and wastewater service and utilities) combined with an educated workforce comprise the foundation of economic development and job growth. Infrastructure itself creates jobs, but the job effects are multiplied because it is that very same infrastructure that enables economic development opportunities. When the state commits to helping local governments fund infrastructure, local jobs are created that, in turn, also generate new revenues for the state. Billy Waits, PE, PLS, senior project manager, Waggoner Engineerings Gulf Coast office, Gulfport.
The depreciation tax deduction area is important for businesses of all sizes. A biggie in this area is for the state of Mississippi to not follow the IRS capitalization rules that went into effect Jan. 1. In the past, you could expense/write off major repairs, materials and supplies. Effective Jan. 1, IRS will limit the amount of the deduction and force companies to spread the cost over the life. Normally the state of Mississippi piggybacks the IRS methods. The IRS is bending taxpayers over the table with these rules. It would be nice for the state to take a stance for the taxpayer. In the payroll area, allowing the tip credit at the state level, either 100 percent or a percentage would help the restaurant industry. Bob Taylor, owner Half Shell Oyster House
First and foremost, we are blessed with an effective regional delegation and legislative leadership that continues to support issues important to the Gulf Coast. In recent legislative sessions, the Business Council supported major legislative initiatives such as wind pool reform, a tourism incentive program, extending Mississippis tourism season and regional tourism legislation to promote the Mississippi Gulf Coast as one, premier destination. In 2014, the Gulf Coast Business Council will focus on supporting legislative initiatives developed by the Coast delegation. The Business Council will continue to support legislative initiatives that positively impact the Gulf Coast economy and business development environment. We will monitor policy development such as the important discussion underway regarding transportation infrastructure funding and aggressively play defense against harmful policies such as proposed gaming tax increases or efforts to roll back recent legislation, which extended Mississippis tourism season. As always, the goal of the Business Council and the key to a successful legislative session is supporting our elected leadership to provide a unified voice for the Gulf Coast. Jack Norris, president of the Gulf Coast Business Council
South Mississippi always is willing to give tax credits to business to locate here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Any area can give tax credits. We must attract business and jobs by providing more amenities to business. Better schools, more focus on the arts. We must support our great museums and add more attractions. A.J.M. Butch Oustalet III, owner of Butch Oustalet Inc., Gulfport
The electric power industry in Mississippi has long been a major supporter of economic development and job creation projects. During the upcoming 2014 legislative session, the electric cooperatives in South Mississippi will continue this support by proposing an amendment to section 77-5-231, Specific Powers of Corporation; Economic Development. The proposed amendment would simply allow a generation and transmission cooperative, South Mississippi Electric Power Association, to participate in various economic development activities in order to attract business and industry to the service area. This would include the authorization to invest money in business or industrial sites, which is a key factor for potential industries looking for a prime area in which to locate.
Such an investment would create and/or enhance employment opportunities within the service territory thereby benefiting the local communities and overall citizenry of Mississippi. Ron Barnes, APR, vice president of marketing, member services and public relations, Coast Electric Power Association
We need to encourage entrepreneurship at all ages through state initiatives and incentives. We have a tendency to seduce big corporations to come to Mississippi, providing many perks for them and often forgetting small business owners in the process. Entrepreneurs collectively create a new economy based on smallness, comprised of independent business owners who invest in one another and pay attention to a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit. (Judy Wicks, author of Good Morning, Beautiful Business). Whatever happened to those tech wizards working out of their garages?
We should educate Mississippi students about business in todays world by implementing pertinent business curriculum in high schools throughout the state. Educational curriculum needs to adhere to the needs of the Mississippis future economic growth. By that, I mean students must learn to develop business acumen early. This would allow for less brain drain from our state and give youth knowledge and opportunities to start small business in this state, not elsewhere. Why wait to start a business simply based on passion without a solid economic foundation and then fail, as 50-80 percent of small businesses do? Why wait until a student demographic reaches at risk proportion before a suitable business alternative is created (i.e. Café Climb)?
We should support Mississippi Insurance Commissioners Mike Chaney lawsuit against the federal government over the large increases in flood insurance premiums via legislative action. A powerful deterrent to economic development is insurance rates, especially in the post-Katrina world of South Mississippi. Many home and business owners are confronted with unaffordable and unsellable properties. Mississippi has proudly led the way as a total of five states attempt to combat the insurance injustice. Lets fill in the vacant lots on U.S. 90 by standing up for affordable insurance premiums.
We should increase the caps on Mississippi film incentives, specifically as it relates to project budgets, salary scales of cast and crew as well as the total annual cap given. This would encourage filmmakers to flock to Mississippi for the bigger budget productions with higher paid actors. Mississippi has become casino-dependent as regards jobs and the economy. A blossoming film industry would provide an abundant alternative providing employment plus economic benefits to many peripheral businesses. Movies make money a drive through Beverly Hills is proof! Elaine Stevens, owner Stevens Media Productions & Consulting
We have a strong need for improved highway funding for both maintenance and construction. U.S. 49 up to Jackson needs significant improvement. In the past, one of the keys to Mississippis strength was a strong highway system, but were falling behind because of the lack of funding. John Compton, general manager and CEO of South Mississippi Electric and chairman of the board of the Area Development Partnership
As a small business owner, I believe that the cost of insurance continues to make a impact on our economy. For me, training young people to appreciate and learn how the arts can impact their life is importamt as is having the resources to bring in entertainment events. I have found it is impossible due to no available venues. Kelli Dickens, owner/director Kellis Steps School of Dance
I really dont have many gripes other then the ridiculous taxes small businesses are bombarded with. Frankly, Im afraid to pay myself because of what I may owe at the end if the year. The repetitive inventory / furniture tax should be a one time deal unless you update your furniture. We should get bigger tax breaks being small independent business owners. I pay way more out than I get in. Tanya Tancredi, owner-operator at Tanya Tancredi salon
As an automotive dealer on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the last 43 years, I have seen our population rise many times and much of that population growth happened with Coast casinos and the introduction of a prominent tourism industry. Our markets are doing a great job of getting people to visit the Coast and enjoy our diverse atmospheres. But we are not doing a great job of encouraging those visitors to move and permanently call South Mississippi their home. This our true test for growth long term.
Whenever events like Cruisin the Coast and the many maritime and music festivals are in full swing, the coastlines are cleaned up and landscaped to welcome the visitors. This should be a year-round effort and that leads me to my point. If the local governments see the need to impress these travelers to love and enjoy coming here, then lets provide that same environment for the locals. Jones Park is an excellent step in the right direction. I think a bill requiring business, property and home owners to maintain their properties with the same care that the local cities apply during Cruisin the Coast will encourage the visitors to see that we are beautiful and clean communities for them to consider moving to and building families. I recall visiting Atlanta suburbs as a child and was always impressed that the feel of these towns were so clean and every inch was landscaped and maintained always. It always invited a feeling of I could live here! There were no sheet metal buildings and overgrowth everywhere that the property owners just ignored. This feeling of driving into these clean roadways with flower landscaped borders at intersections like downtown Gulfport by Jones Park and up to Hancock Bank on U.S. 49 need to be everywhere.
In my business, the more people who live here mean the more cars I will sell. The more cars I sell mean I need more employees to handle the larger base of customers. If I have a larger more diverse base of customers, we can look into bringing more car manufacturers to the Gulf Coast because the demand will be there to need the supply. Jonathan Allen, Allen Automotive Toyota Scion Hyundai
"One of the primary missions of the board of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is to insure and enhance a favorable business and communication environment for our county and region. When addressing what laws would most positively impact economic development and job growth in Mississippi, we acknowledge the work of our elected officials in recent sessions. We applaud measures that have focused on improving education in Mississippi, particularly in the area of early childhood education and those which highlight STEM-based curricula. Also, we appreciate efforts to maintain reasonable, affordable insurance rates and to mitigate costs of insurance for home and business owners in South Mississippi. It may seem cliché, but we favor a united we stand approach and encourage the promotion of South Mississippi as a region. Legislation related to Gulf Coast tourism and recent events like Pathways2Possibilities demonstrate to potential investors South Mississippis commitment to regionalism. All in all, we find significant benefit to further investments in education, in insurance costs reduction measures and in collaborative initiatives like the Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Partnership.
"We also would support legislation that drives job training and workforce development. A well-trained and educated workforce is vital to meeting the current and future demands of economic growth. Further, a significant expense on our state budget is our criminal system. Jackson County in particular has seen the benefits of state-funded programs like drug courts and we would support continuing or enhancing similar public safety programs. Finally, we support state action that would maximize the rate of return on RESTORE Act investments in South Mississippi. Alan Sudduth, manager policy, government and public affairs, Chevron, and Jackson County Chamber of Commerce board chairman
The legislature should begin by passing a law requiring Gov. Bryant to expand Medicaid to those 300,000 Mississippians, most of them working poor, who are without health insurance. This would be a great relief to hospitals currently bearing the expense of treating these people. It would be a boon to the economy as well. David Sheffield, Biloxi native, screenwriter (Coming to America, Nutty Professor) and television writer (Saturday Night Live)
Hancock County Chamber 2014 legislative platform
1. Promotion of continued support to improve the National Flood Insurance Program.
While the state legislature does not have a say about the changes to the National Flood Insurance Program, it is critical that our delegation out of Jackson pushes for reform on these recent changes. The current changes are stymying investment in housing and commercial real estate and thus Hancock Countys economic development.
2. Redefine the zone for the hospital tax credits.
The three coastal counties are at a disadvantage under the current geographic definition. Unfortunately by that definition a large portion of our zone sits in the Gulf of Mexico or the Bay of St. Louis. So we need to address potential ways to deal with this challenge. This is a critical issue for all three coastal counties.
3. Extend the countys tourism 2 percent tax on hotel rooms, which funds the Hancock County Tourism Bureau and Hancock Countys participation in the Regional Tourism Partnership. Established in October 1996, it has a repeal date of July 1, 2014.
This is a critical issue but it should not be difficult to get an extension. It is more difficult to pass new legislation, and I feel with a request from the county Board of Supervisors we can receive the extension and continue this funding avenue. If this tourism tax does not continue it will be harder for Hancock County to participate in the Regional Partnership to market the Coast and boost tourism. This is not a new tax, just an extension of what has been on the books for several years and it is working well.
4. Extension of Hancock Countys Scenic Byways program across the U.S. 90 bridge to DeBuys Road, eventually crossing from state line to state line along the beach front.
The Scenic Byways program improves the opportunities for all three coastal counties to apply for and receive federal funding. The more roadways in each county we can include in this program, the better position we are in to seek that funding. Clay Wagner of Hancock Bank, and president of the Hancock Chamber
The Scenic Byways program is a prime example of regional cooperation to expand tourism across the Coast. Through the work started by the Hancock Chamber Scenic By-ways Committee, the Beach Boulevard Scenic By-way can now be extended across the Coast. The goal is to one day extend the by-way from state line to state line prior to the 100th anniversary of the Old Spanish Trail in 2015. Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock Chamber and a member of the State Scenic By-ways Commission