Citizens must stay positive about economy, education

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 9, 2002

Our readers by a 3-2 margin don’t think the local economy is onthe mend, according to an informal Internet poll conducted lastweek by The DAILY LEADER. A look at some local economic indicators,though, shows that perception doesn’t match with reality.

One only has to drive down Brookway Boulevard to see a newrestaurant opening, another being built, and other constructionunder way. And there is continuing building activity with theMississippi School of the Arts and a number of other projects inand outside the city.

In numerical data, the city’s sales tax collections in July wereonly about $100 over the the same period in 2001. However, in thefiscal year that ended June 30, the city’s $3.8 million incollections was more than $100,000 over that of FY 2001.

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In unemployment totals, Lincoln County’s July numbers were downmore than half a percentage point from 7.6 percent to 7 percent.That was a little above the state average of 6.5 percent, but stillamong the lowest rates in southwest Mississippi.

While area citizens have reasons to smile, continued prosperitywill depend on this community’s commitment to education. Such wasthe message at two meetings held in the area last week.

During a Parents for Public Schools meeting on educationalaccountability Thursday, school officials and supporters stressedthe role of education in producing a qualified work force that isable to meet the needs of business and industry. Communities thathave good schools produce good results economically, speakerssaid.

Haley Barbour, a potential gubernatorial candidate, expressedsimilar thoughts Friday during a Southwest Mississippi EconomicSymposium.

Barbour said education is the number one factor affectingeconomy development in Mississippi and every other state in thenation. He said a good work force is essential to being able tocompete in a changing global economy and if that work force is notavailable, other business and industry recruitment issues do notmatter.

“We better get serious about education,” Barbour said, whilealso stressing the need to have a positive attitude about the stateand its citizens’ abilities.

Judging from comments and attendance at Thursday’saccountability meeting, Brookhaven and Lincoln County can be proudto have citizens who are interested and involved in our schools.With the proper focus, that interest and involvement can ensureeconomic success and prosperity in the years ahead.