What’s better for East Mississippi’s economy – a large manufacturing company from elsewhere coming here to set up shop – or several small to medium-sized start-up businesses created and operated by local entrepreneurs?
The answer – for many reasons – is the latter, according to Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman, who sat down with The Meridian Star’s editorial board this week.
During a conversation Tuesday, the Republican touched on the economic outlook for the state and Meridian.
According to Hosemann, our efforts should focus on encouraging small business owners, not just courting major corporations who will, in his words, “allegedly bring in 1,000 employees.”
“In Meridian, we need to hit singles and doubles,” Hosemann said. “Four companies here employing 50 to 75 people – you do the math. That’s 250 to 300 new employees. That makes a huge ripple. And we have the simplest way to do that, the junior college system that trains the work force. Then, you have community support.”
“The main thing is an educated workforce, access to capital – which you have here, and community support,” he added. “That’s what will lead you to scoring runs. I’m all about hitting home runs – it’s really exciting. But four singles will get you the same result.”
Hosemann is right.
Our state, county and local leaders shouldn’t just try to catch the biggest fish, but rather make it easier for small business owners and entrepreneurs to set up shop.
When it comes to small businesses, our community is full of success stories.
In Philadelphia, Hardy Manufacturing is continuing more than three decades of of building heaters. The company isn’t a large corporation – it employees 25 full-time workers. But its role in Mississippi’s economy can’t be underestimated – it has six distributors and a nationwide network of independent dealers. That number continues to grow as the business embraces the future by looking at safe and economical heating appliances.
Hardy Manufacturing is just one example of a successful locally-owned area business. East Central Mississippi is full of these types of small to medium sized companies.
Important factors in the success of small businesses, Hosemann noted, are community support, access to capital and training opportunities.
We witnessed some of those factors in action during a small business expo held at the MCC-Riley Workforce Development Center recently. The event, sponsored by Citizens National Bank and the City of Meridian, focused on connecting small business owners with local, regional and statewide resources.
Attendee Mariposa Pigott said she will use the information she received at the expo to grow her current business and to open another – a local rental kitchen.
Pigott, and many other enthusiastic entrepreneurs, like those involved in the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation’s Minority Business Alliance, may hold the key to the future of our area.
We should not just applaud and encourage their efforts, but do whatever it takes to make their journey fruitful.