Vision’s wealth of possibilities

Published 12:09 am Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When it comes to jobs and future economic development, it’s pretty easy to get Rebels, Golden Eagles and Bulldogs to sing out of the same hymnals with a reasonable expectation that the majority of the rest of the state’s population will sing along.

Gov. Phil Bryant, a die-hard alumnus of the University of Southern Mississippi, headlined a recent Governor’s Energy Summit on the campus of Mississippi State University that featured four dynamic leaders of the U.S. and global energy industry — including University of Mississippi graduate Stephen Johnson, the president of Itron Cellular Solutions. The summit was sponsored by the Mississippi Energy Institute and Mississippi Development Authority.

Rounding out the energy industry leaders participating in the summit were: Bob Balzar, vice president for energy efficiency, TVA; Richard Mills, CEO, Tellus Operating Group; and Haley Fisackerly, president and CEO, Entergy Mississippi.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Bryant, the energy industry leaders and MSU President Mark Keenum talked about Mississippi’s present and future opportunities for growing high quality jobs in the energy sector as a group of students from the Mississippi School for Math and Science and MSU students listened intently.

From the framework of energy-based economic development, Bryant told the students that he embraced an “all of the above” concept of growing and developing an already robust energy industry in Mississippi for the future.

“I think it’s important that we not only focus on developing jobs in the energy sector for the tasks of locating and recovering natural energy resources, but that we look at jobs that are ancillary to that process,” said Bryant. “Who manufactures the specialized equipment used in the location and recovery of energy resources and the equipment used to refine and process those resources? I believe that manufacturing can be done better and more efficiently here in Mississippi close to the point of extraction of the natural gas or oil or lignite or other resources.”

Bryant said he has already initiated conversation within the energy industry about pursuing value-added energy sector jobs for Mississippi. “We are on the cutting edge of global energy technologies right here, right now in Mississippi, “ Bryant said. “And we can accomplish energy sector economic development in Mississippi in an environmentally responsible way.”

“We have the engines of research and development right here at our Mississippi universities,” said Bryant, pointing to MSU’s success in the ECO Car alternative automobile design competition sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Dept. of Energy, world-class polymer science research at the University of Southern Mississippi, and advances in acoustic research and other discoveries that serve the emerging missile defense industry in the South at Ole Miss and the list goes on in the five other Mississippi universities.

“All of the above” includes CO-2 carbon sequestration, “fracking” and other controversial energy recovery methods, nuclear power expansion, so-called “green” energy, and technology-based efficiency and conservation methods, among others. Some aspects will be popular, others will draw criticism.

But linked to both market forces and emerging technologies, Bryant’s energy plan is one that indeed positions Mississippi to be a full partner in the energy industry rather than a place that outside energy interests come to relieve us of our natural resources and take the wealth derived from that process with them. Bryant’s energy plan can be viewed at

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at 601-507-8004 or