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Recovery happening slowly in state

At a recent briefing from the state's chief economist, Darrin Webb, the Legislature heard about another tough year ahead for Mississippi's economy. On the positive side, the fourth quarter of 2011 was the strongest of the year, coming in at 3.4 percent GDP growth.

Business and consumer confidence appears to be climbing out of the basement, and housing starts and auto sales are easing upward. On the negative side, Webb pointed out the continued fundamental weakness in the U.S. economy, including high debt levels, cautious consumers and businesses and the potential for Europe's financial ills to bleed over into our credit markets.

If we control spending, urge private sector growth, reduce burdensome regulation and keep taxes low, Mississippi can continue a steady path to recovery.

Mississippi finished 2011 fairly strong. We even saw an increase in manufacturing activity. All indicators still lag below pre-recession levels. That includes retail sales. And even though light vehicle sales saw some improvement, they, too are still slow.

None of this comes as a surprise to you. Your family - just like mine - is probably consuming less than you were during 2007-2008. Mississippi's economy is making steady progress, but we are being told slower growth is here to stay.

If we make smart choices, I believe we can grow our way out of this sooner rather than later. We must be good stewards of taxpayer money.

Madison, Ridgeland, Northeast Jackson and Gluckstadt are home to many of the businesses and professionals who are helping drive growth for the state. I consider it my charge to get government out of your way and send back more of your money for you to invest and spend.

The state should roll out the welcome mat. We can encourage local job creation by easing the burden of regulation wherever possible. New businesses go where they can prosper, and private investment will always drive growth.

The Senate district I represent has companies that are forging ahead even in tough times. SmartSynch, for example, a local company that finds high tech solutions that improve delivery of energy to consumers. They are based here, and they recently announced an international expansion. There are other businesses like them that want to grow and expand.

The Madison County Economic Development Authority and the Madison County Business League are two groups leading the way to attract new business and create jobs. I have met with members of these groups, and we are looking at some opportunities for the region.

While consumer confidence has bounced back from the lows of 2009, it is still below the pre-recession level. We need consumers to feel comfortable spending on goods and services. For that to happen, we need to leave more money in their pockets.

We need to control spending and leave more money in the private sector. We are heirs to a budget process that encourages wasteful spending and rewards political agendas.

We should set a few clear, focused goals for government's role. Then, if part of government is not doing its job, we need to change it or shut it down.

Mississippi is projected to have 1.7 percent GDP growth for 2012. We know in the Legislature we will be facing a very tight budget year. I hope we can all work together to make our economy grow.

Will Longwitz is a State Senator representing Madison, Ridgeland, Gluckstadt and Northeast Jackson. For a copy of the Legislative Economic Briefing, visit www.WillLongwitz.com.

BY WILL LONGWITZ • SPECIAL TO THE HERALD • JANUARY 26, 2012

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