Successes in pandemic recovery, legislative influence elevated Mississippi’s Voice of Business
The Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) has been honored as the State Chamber of the Year for 2022 by the National Association of State Chambers (NASC). Each year NASC honors a state chamber that has distinguished itself by providing exceptional services and outstanding results for its members.
“As the state chamber, MEC connects businesses from all regions of Mississippi with a shared goal of growing our state’s economic competitiveness,” said Scott Waller, president and CEO of MEC. “The tremendous support of members from all business sectors is the driving force for initiating and effectively advocating proactive public policy, helping create opportunities for all Mississippians.”
MEC – the State Chamber of Commerce – has been the voice of Mississippi business since 1949, dealing with broad issues that relate to all Mississippi businesses. MEC carries out its mission statement “to be the leading force for business in Mississippi” by using factual, data-driven research to promote collaboration between top private and public sector leaders and develop feasible solutions that will grow the state’s economy.
In the fall of 2021, MEC completed 51 small-group discussions in 18 regions of the state, gathering qualitative data on workforce, education, talent retention and attraction, economic development, and business climate. The information from these facilitated sessions, along with essential quantitative data, led to the development of MEC’s “Securing Mississippi’s Future: Vision for Economic Growth” report, released in early 2022. This report provides a clear, definitive picture of the public policy needed to advance the interests of MEC members and create a more prosperous future for all Mississippians.
The recommendations in the report align with key legislative initiatives, several of which were acted on during the 2022 session. Waller said a tremendous partnership among state leaders, key agencies, and other business groups led to transformative public policy this past year.
“Working with Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and members of the legislature, we are making great strides in addressing the goals outlined in the ‘Securing Mississippi’s Future’ report,” Waller said. “By bringing public and private sector leaders together to focus on workforce training, economic development, and improving Mississippi’s competitiveness, our state benefits for years to come.”
Key Public Policy Achievements
• The Comprehensive Career and Technical Education Reform Act is a transformational approach to improving career pathways. It aligns CTE courses at the high school and community college levels, requiring a return-on-investment analysis. It also creates career readiness assessments.
• The Strategically Accelerating the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers (START) Act of 2022 is a $250 million annual investment for teachers, increasing their salaries effective for the 2022-2023 school year, surpassing the regional and national averages.
• The Mississippi Flexible Tax Incentive Act is a performance-based incentive program to attract businesses to Mississippi, allowing flexibility in the use of incentives.
• More than $500 million in new funding was appropriated for state and local infrastructure projects.
• MEC developed its first formal strategic plan in over 20 years. This three-to-five-year plan will solidify MEC as the “Voice of Business” in Mississippi.
• Utilizing its foundations, the Public Education Forum of Mississippi and the M.B. Swayze Foundation, MEC received $1.2 million in grants to support the organization’s efforts.
• The organization created a reserve fund, moving toward a goal of three months of core operating expenses.
• MEC provided professional development opportunities for staff, including two members of the MEC staff who earned the industry-recognized IOM designation.
“The Mississippi Economic Council’s value to its members is evident through the results of meaningful public policy,” said MEC 2022-2023 Chair Martin Williams, vice president and CFO of Coca-Cola Bottling of Corinth & Tupelo. “However, this award isn’t based on a single accomplishment. It highlights best practices among state chambers, and I am proud of the work accomplished by MEC and the support of our members throughout Mississippi.”
“Chambers of Commerce play a vital role in helping to advance their state’s economy by advocating for business opportunity and growth for their private sector employers,” said Heather Briccetti Mulligan, President and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, and Chair of NASC. “Over the past year, the Mississippi Economic Council has continued NASC’s mission of demonstrating best practices to achieve these goals. Being named the top state chamber is a well-deserved top honor for MEC and its team.”
Building on these examples, along with its steadfast work that changed the Mississippi flag and removed a symbol of hatred and prejudice, MEC’s momentum is laying the groundwork for the transformational change necessary to secure Mississippi’s future.
The celebration of the State Chamber of the Year award will kick off at MEC’s annual Hobnob Mississippi on Thursday, Oct. 27.