Gov. Ronnie Musgrove speaks during the Claiborne County Port Commission’s Inaugural Salute to Industry ceremony Thursday night. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 9, 2000

PORT GIBSON The Advantage Mississippi Initiative adopted during a special legislative session this summer is only half of the plan to boost the state’s economy, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said in Claiborne County Thursday night.

Speaking before about 150 county officials and industry leaders, Musgrove revealed few details of the plans but said they will come from the executive branch.

“You’re going to hear some information in the next few days that will stun you,” he said.

Musgrove was the key speaker at the Claiborne County Port Commission’s Salute to Industry ceremony and presented awards to 14 area businesses. The goal of the evening was to highlight developments in one of the state’s poorest rural counties.

“Mississippi will rise together, or Mississippi will fall together,” Musgrove said. “By what I have seen here tonight, Claiborne County is going to rise.”

Thursday night’s banquet and awards ceremony were at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, the second largest employer in Claiborne County.

“Remember that the partnership between industry and the government is the fuel behind economic development,” said Bill Eaton, vice president of the power station.

Speaking after Musgrove, the Rev. Dolphus Weary, the executive director of Mission Mississippi, a Christian organization, invited the audience to help look for solutions to the rural county’s high unemployment rate.

“Anyone can point out the problems,” Weary said. “But I’m about finding people who can come up with some solution.”

Weary, a black who was appointed by Musgrove to the state commission charged with choosing a state flag, told the diverse group not to let the flag dictate their unity.

“There are good people on both sides,” he said. And, “You have come such a long way.”

Musgrove did not mention the flag but said his new economic plans, unveiled during the special legislative session in August, are about people, not politics.

“The bottom line of that session is it has taken Mississippi from last place to first place,” Musgrove said.

Musgrove’s economic development program includes tax incentives for companies that pay more than the state average wage, locate in one of the state’s 20 poorest counties including Claiborne and changing the name of the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development to the Mississippi Development Authority.

Also in the Vicksburg area, Sharkey and Issaquena, both just north of Warren, are listed among the state’s poorest counties.

Albert Butler, president of the Claiborne County Board of Supervisors, said Musgrove’s economic development package has begun to have an impact on the community.

“The impact of the initiative has already begun to inspire the rest of us,” he said.

The governor spoke briefly about legislation passed this year to increase teacher pay and to place Internet-accessible computers in every classroom. By 2002, computers should be in every classroom across the state, he said.

“We may very well be the first state in the nation to do that,” Musgrove said.

An excited Musgrove also said plans are being made to have high-speed broad band Internet access throughout Mississippi. Other plans would focus more attention on water and sewer systems in rural areas.

“In a lot of communities, water keeps it from moving forward,” Musgrove said.

Many of the Batesville native’s remarks focused on small communities, such as Claiborne County, but he said the new economic development plan would affect every community in the state.

“I’m from a small community, and those small communities should not be left out,” said Musgrove, who was sworn into office nine months ago.

Not only has the new economic plan changed how some Mississippians see the state, he said, it has also begun to affect how others look at the state. Alabama Gov. Fob James said recently that Mississippi is his state’s No. 1 economic competitor, Musgrove said.

“And we’re going to take everything we can from Alabama,” he said.