Pass Momentum package to entice high-tech firms

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 20, 2005

After foundering in the regular session, a much-needed incentiveplan to draw and keep companies in Mississippi seems to have newhope of seeing the light of day.

On Wednesday, the first day of a special legislative session,the state Senate passed Momentum Mississippi, a $27 million packagethat would give high-tech firms many of the same incentives thatmanufacturers currently receive.

The plan, endorsed by business leaders from throughoutMississippi, was allowed to die during the regular session whenHouse members failed to bring the bill up before a deadline, thuskilling it. The governor wisely added Momentum Mississippi to thespecial session agenda, and we urge House members to follow theirSenate colleagues and pass it quickly.

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Some may question the need for and wisdom of offering incentivesfor companies to start operations, relocate or remain inMississippi – preferring that they foot the bill themselves – thatreally is a moot point. In the end, if Mississippi does not offerthe incentives, another state will. And when that happens,Mississippi will come up empty-handed.

Well-intentioned people can argue the merits of spending moneyto make money, but individuals and businesses do that every day. Inshort, everyone else is doing it, so Mississippi has to aswell.

That said, the state must put into place a mechanism to guardagainst abuse. State officials must act to show they have learnedsomething from the boondoggle involving the now-closed,state-backed $43.5 million Mississippi Beef Processors plant innorth Mississippi. The proper proof, however, is to exercisecaution, not to shut the door on future economic developmentopportunities.