MDA: $30B in projects coming

Economic development in Mississippi benefits everyone in the state,no matter where it happens, the executive director of the MississippiDevelopment Authority said.

"Each region of the state has its own regional interest. But we allshould share in the joys" when one region gets a big project, GraySwoope said Tuesday in a statewide teleconference.

In 2007, the state has seen "successful economic development projectslike we've never seen before," he said.

The MDA has developed a nine-goal plan with input from local economicdevelopers and focus groups around the state, including assetdevelopment and helping businesses.

But the MDA's work comes down to two simple ideas, he said: changingminds, inside and outside the state, and changing lives.

Landing the Toyota plant near Tupelo was an example of how minds canbe changed, he said, and Mississippi's image strongly benefited.

"We need to continue to build on that," Swoope said, adding that ittakes money to successfully promote the state, and the MDA's currentbudget is $680,000. The agency has a targeted ad series which has beenwell received, and Swoope cited a statewide coalition of utilitieswhich has supplemented that marketing budget.

This year, there are "$20 billion worth of projects that are going tohappen, and almost $15 billion are energy-related projects," he said.Add projects on the drawing board, and that number is closer to $30billion, he said.

"I just think that's remarkable for the size state we are," he said.

Some areas Swoope noted:

- Film incentives have been revised. "We're getting a lot of interestfrom big-name filmmakers," he said.

- Three Mississippi welcome centers now have wireless technologyavailable for visitors. "It tells them Mississippi is wired," he said.

- The MDA is working on adding more towns to the retirement community program.

- Economic and physical growth is good, but it's important todifferentiate between development and growth. "A garbage pile isgrowth," Swoope said.

- For 2008, the MDA wants "to help build regions and help them marketthemselves more," he said.