WILSON/Bryant’s vision for a healthy economy

June 21st Madison County Journal: One thing that defines a good leader is the ability to focus on two or three key priorities, even while a world of distractions swirls around them. Separating the “important” from the “urgent” is mission critical. In politics, keeping the “main thing” the main thing is perhaps even more difficult than it is in the private sector. 

From my days as a White House Fellow, I remember an anecdote President Bush told about some of his senior advisors, who had been executives in the private sector. When they complained about how slowly things moved in government, he responded that the system was intentionally designed by the Founders to be inefficient. 

W. had a point. Governments that are efficient are the regimes that take everything you have, or kidnap you in the middle of the night. To that extent, our Constitutional system is ingenious (if it can withstand the current stewards of it). But leaders who can keep the team focused on those two or three priorities can still get things done. 

Governor Phil Bryant is looking like one of those leaders. Six months in, Governor Bryant is settling in and putting his own stamp on the Governor’s Office. Cowboy boots may be more in vogue at the Capitol. Classic cars might be the “in” hobby. But Governor Bryant is also methodically building a successful track record on an agenda all his own. It’s early, but Phil Bryant is making his mark with a distinctive style and down-to-earth approach.

Governor Bryant has called the recent Legislative Session the most business friendly in history. Bryant’s “Mississippi Works” initiative is underscoring the theme of more growth, and more jobs. 

The Governor’s “main thing” is clearly economic growth, and directing state policy to achieve it. While President Obama has pivoted more times than a ballerina at the International Ballet Competition, Obama could learn a thing or two from Governor Bryant’s steady focus on improving Mississippi’s economy. (Maybe if Obama wore boots, it would keep him from pivoting so much. Maybe not.)

Regardless, Governor Bryant already has some real accomplishments under his belt. The state has finally moved to address the inventory tax, long a disincentive and a burden to businesses operating in the state. Bryant signed a measure into law aimed at relaxing regulatory burdens on small businesses. And, the state is taking steps to enhance our workforce and combat the state’s high dropout rate by allowing dual enrollment options for at-risk kids. All these things will foster a business-friendly image for the state, which in turn will help our efforts to recruit new businesses and grow existing ones.

One of the most significant parts of Governor Bryant’s agenda passed this Session is the Health Industry Zone Act. The new law, designed to spur “clusters” of growth around the state’s major acute care hospitals, is part of Bryant’s vision of playing to our strengths and addressing some of the state’s nagging public health problems. This law could have a potentially significant impact for decades to come.

Inspired by a visit to the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas when he was Governor-elect last November, Governor Bryant fought for passage of the Health Industry Zone Act to encourage health care as an engine for economic growth. He’s on to something.

Under the law, which becomes effective on July 1, three-county areas with an acute care hospital facility with at least 375 beds (like Metro Jackson, the Coast, Meridian, and Desoto/northwest Mississippi) can become “health industry zones” that qualify for state and local tax incentives. Within a five-mile radius of qualified hospital facilities, businesses that invest $10 million or plan to hire at least 25 permanent employees can qualify through the Mississippi Development Authority for sales, ad valorem, and accelerated depreciation tax breaks for investing in the zone. 

In Houston, the result has been huge. Governor Bryant sees the same potential here. Health care is certainly a growth industry. As our state population ages, there will be more demand, for more innovative care. And, if Mississippi can grow a niche in specialty areas of health care, we could make positive national news in areas like obesity, heart disease, and the like. Good economics, and good health.

Health care professionals earn good salaries, and innovations that start here could lead to spinoff growth. Governor Bryant’s focus has led to some early success. As he remains focused on growing our health care and our broader economy, Bryant’s vision could lead to a nice legacy for us all.

Cory T. Wilson of Madison is an attorney with the firm of Heidelberg Steinberger Colmer & Burrow. To contact Cory, email cory@corywilson.ms.