Will New Leaders Follow Business’s Blueprint?

“What’s the way forward for Mississippi?”

Ask that at the coffee shop and you’ll get some interesting answers. Ask that to top business leaders and university researchers and you get a plan.

Last week, Blueprint Mississippi rolled out goals chosen by top business leaders after voluminous research by universities and considerable input from individuals. Nine goal statements with 35 recommendations hit the table just in time to impact the November 8 elections.

“The release of these primary goals and recommendations comes now, before the November election, to focus attention on the priorities that have been established as our project enters its final phase,” said Hank Bounds, Blueprint Mississippi 2011 chairman and Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education.

The full package of goals, recommendations, and action steps won’t be ready until January 5, 2012, just in time to “focus attention” for the new legislative session.

The nine goals are motherhood and apple pie statements. The main course lies in the 35 recommendations. Among them are:
• Create a quality early childhood education and development system;
• Transition to all-appointed superintendents by 2015;
• Decrease the economic and societal costs associated with teenage births by lowering birthrates among females under 19 years old;
• Support the goals in the report, Mississippi’s Creative Economy, released by the Mississippi Arts Commission with the Mississippi Development Authority;
• Invest in local community building projects that promote interracial cooperation;
• Develop state-level programs that support rural and minority entrepreneurship and strengthen local economies;
• Identify, invest in and encourage the use of new technologies that enhance efficiencies and provide cost savings; and
• Evaluate Mississippi’s industry sectors to determine priority sectors, and conduct comprehensive, customized cluster analyses to determine key growth opportunities for Mississippi, beginning with an assessment of the health care industry as a prototype.

You can see what’s included, and not included, in the 35 recommendations at http://www.blueprintmississippi.com.

What impact will these goals, recommendations, and upcoming action plans have on Mississippi’s elected and appointed leaders?

In 2004, incoming Governor Haley Barbour and his long range planning team, Momentum Mississippi, adopted as their program of work the top recommendations of the first Blueprint Mississippi report. This set the stage for a number of accomplishments in economic development, workforce training, and education.

Not surprisingly, one of the goals announced last week is to “institutionalize” a business-led group like Momentum Mississippi to make sure current Blueprint recommendations get implemented.

“The potential this document has is unbelievable,” said Bounds.

I wonder if our incoming set of political leaders will grasp that unbelievable potential, follow the lead of the business community, and invest resources in the recommendations?

It will be worth a few hours at the coffee shop to find out.

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