Delbert Hosemann at Rotary

Delbert Hosemann, right, visits with Greenwood attorney Donnie Brock after the Republican secretary of state spoke to the Greenwood Rotary and Exchange clubs Tuesday. Waiting to chat with Hosemann are, from left, Dale Persons, who previously worked for the Secretary of State’s Office on voter ID education, and Ryan Strawbridge, a vice president at Planters Bank & Trust Co.

Based on a survey his office did last year of Mississippi businesses, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says economic developers should rethink their “incentives first” approach.

“The whole mind-set about what we’re doing as a state and what we’re doing with our economic development dollars needs to be revisited,” said Hosemann, speaking to a combined meeting Tuesday of the Greenwood Rotary and Exchange clubs.

One of the questions on the survey posed to Mississippi corporations was, “What is most important to your business?”

Only about 5 percent of the 1,800 respondents answered “state and local government incentives.”

The No. 1 answer was “educated workforce,” selected by almost 35 percent, and No. 2 was “community support,” selected by almost 20 percent.

Those answers, according to Hosemann, are a good indicator of where local communities should invest their energies if they want to lure new companies.

“If your schools don’t work, if your local government doesn’t work, they’re not coming,” he said.

Hosemann, during his speech, made no mention of his future election plans. The Republican, now in his third term as secretary of state, is widely expected to run for lieutenant governor in 2019. He said after his talk that he would wait until next spring to make a formal announcement.

Hoseman concentrated many of his remarks on education — specifically how Mississippi can restructure its approach in high school to try to meet the needs of businesses today and in the future.

Again citing last year’s survey of state businesses, Hosemann said more than 40 percent said they would expand if they had an educated workforce, but half the time it takes three months or more to find a suitable candidate to fill an opening.

Hosemann said more needs to be done to embed junior colleges in the high schools, citing some pilot programs, such as Delta State University’s collaborative with Cleveland Central High School, that allows students to earn credits from the two-year college while still in high school. Many of these programs are emphasizing “technical skills” that translate well into the workplace, he said.

Hosemann, as he has frequently in recent years, again touted his successful implementation of voter identification in Mississippi. By working with the U.S. Justice Department throughout the process, he said the state, which has a history of run-ins with the federal agency that oversees voting-related changes, was able to avoid litigation.

“We were the only state in the country that didn’t get sued for voter ID,” he said.

He singled out Dale Persons, a Rotarian who worked as a field representative for the secretary of state on voter ID education, for his contributions to acclimating Mississippi voters to producing identification when they come to the polls.

Hoseman’s office also announced Tuesday that Leflore County will received $16,585 from the recent sale of 57 tax-forfeited properties.

“The check is important, of course, but the victory is in putting these properties back into private hands to create a consistent stream of revenue for our local governments and public schools,” Hosemann said in a prepared statement released a couple of hours after speaking to the Greenwood civic clubs.

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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