• 79°

Musgrove in town Friday

Local and area business leaders will get a glimpse of Gov.Ronnie Musgrove’s new economic development plan Friday when thegovernor visits Brookhaven for a meeting on the AdvantageMississippi Initiative.

The Brookhaven meeting, scheduled for Friday at 8 a.m. at theMultiuse Facility, is one of seven meetings around the state on theplan, which lawmakers will consider in a special session startingMonday. Business and community leaders from an eight-county areaare expected for the meeting, said Chandler Russ, executivevice-president of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce.

“I think it’s a good start and a good beginning,” Russ saidabout the plan. “It’s really a lot of what economic developmentofficials have been asking for in the state.”

Russ said the plan is designed to put Mississippi on an evenfield or in a competitive advantage with surrounding states. Thedirector mentioned two points that could be very helpful toBrookhaven as well as the rest of the state.

One is an up to 5 percent payroll assistance rebate forcompanies that locate in the state and pay 125 percent of thecounty’s average manufacturing wage.

“That’s a strong, strong incentive,” Russ said.

The incentive would mean better-paying jobs for citizens and arebate on payroll costs for companies. It would apply to new orexisting companies that hire at least 25 new employees.

The second incentive Russ mentioned is the Local AdvantageFinancing Program. It would allow cities or counties to levy an upto 1 percent sales tax or add to the tax levy to pay for project-and time-specific economic development activities such as buildinga new industrial park.

“It allows cities and counties to take their future in their ownhands,” Russ said, adding that there would be provisions forcitizens to call for an election on tax proposals.

As they prepare for the special session, some local lawmakerswere taking a more wait and see approach on the economicproposal.

Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett said Tuesday he was stilldigesting the plan. So far, he said it had a lot of “feel good”measures and he was looking to learn more about the plan beforeMonday.

“We’ll support it in every way we can,” said Barnett, adding heexpected the session to last only a day.

Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak was expecting to learn more about theplan Wednesday and Thursday during a Ways and Means Committeemeeting. Any economic development legislation would be sent to thatcommittee for initial action.

Moak said his focus will be making sure small businesses get apiece of the economic development pie.

“I’m tired of the small guys having to pay the taxes that thebig guys are exempt from just because they can create a lot of jobsin one fell swoop,” Moak said.

Moak said small businesses need a level playing field and he waslooking forward to the session, which he expected to last possiblyseveral days.

“I’m glad we’re getting a chance to address that,” Moaksaid.