Report: Miss. takes bottom spot in competitiveness

Published 3:02 pm Friday, November 21, 2008

When it comes to attracting and retaining businesses that contribute to economic growth, Mississippi is last in the nation, a new report says.

The eighth edition of the Beacon Hill Institute’s Competitiveness Report ranks Mississippi last among the 50 states. Massachusetts took the top spot, while Alabama and Louisiana ranked 48th and 49th, just ahead of Mississippi in the report released Wednesday.

BHI is the research arm of the Department of Economics at Suffolk University in Boston.

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Since BHI’s annual report began eight years ago, Mississippi has ranked 50th six times and 49th in 2005 and 2007.

The competitiveness index is based on 43 indicators that evaluate government and fiscal policy, security, infrastructure, human resources, technology, business incubation, openness and environmental policy. The report lists competitive advantages and disadvantages for each state.

Mississippi’s disadvantages included its high rate of high school dropouts, unemployment, crime, infant mortality, and people living without health insurance.

David G. Tuerck, BHI’s executive director, said Mississippi’s government and fiscal policy rated higher than Massachusetts because of lower taxes and other variables, but the disadvantages in other areas are numerous.

“There’s a high crime rate problem. The level of education of the people there … that seems to be a problem. Technology, you’re not a center for high-tech to say the least,” he said.

Tuerck said having good government that understands free market principles is simply not enough for states like Mississippi to rise from the bottom.

“It looks like to me that what you should be doing is working on trying to bring high-tech firms down there,” he said.

Tuerck said Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi should focus on promoting their advantages, including the low cost of living, warm weather, and affordable housing.

Eight states that made the top 10 last year remained in that group this year. Oregon and Montana moved up, while South Dakota dropped out. New Hampshire slipped from ninth to 17th because of falling scores for security, fiscal policy and business incubation. The state ranked third just two years ago.

Jonathan Haughton, BHI’s senior economist and lead author of the report, said in a release that all states are dealing with economic turmoil.

“The key, however, is to pay attention to the factors that contribute to a state’s economic growth over the long term. The index continues to show that improvement in a state’s ranking can translate into a higher standard of living for state residents,” Haughton said.

On the Net:

Beacon Hill Institute report,