People: Asset and liability

By CHARLES DUNAGIN,

“The people of Mississippi are our state’s greatest asset,” wrote Glenn McCullough Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, in a recent newspaper column in which he was reflecting on what he called “the bountiful blessings of the past year in Mississippi.”

McCullough went on to credit the virtues or the state’s political leadership, its education system from kindergarten through universities and economic development partners for what he described as great times in Mississippi with prospects for better.

“Mississippi is united as one team with a strong faith for future economic development wins as we move together forward,” his column concluded.

It’s McCullough’s job to be positive about Mississippi, and no one can blame him for doing just that. But it seems to me he’s stretching it more than a bit.

The part about people being “our greatest asset” is a refrain that has been used repeatedly not only by politicians and those who work for them but also by business owners and managers who extol their workers at Christmas parties and other company celebrations.

How many times have you heard, “our employees are our most valuable asset,” when a company was receiving an award? Or, in the case of retailers, customers could be substituted for employees.

I’ve probably used some variation of the salute to employees and people myself on numerous occasions back when I was a manager.

But to be brutally honest, not all the people in Mississippi are assets. And an employee who is incompetent or has a consistently bad attitude that can affect other workers can be more of a liability than an asset.

What about the crooks, gang bangers, drug pushers and deadbeats that plague many Mississippi towns of any size?

They aren’t assets.

Nor are those who, perhaps because of the environment into which they were born and raised or because of their own personal lack of initiative, have neither the skills nor the work ethic to hold down a job.

McCullough is right in assessing that there are good people in Mississippi who are assets and people are the most valuable thing the state possesses.

But our people asset could be improved with better education which isn't that great in some localities. Breaking the cycle of poverty and ineptitude that infects too many cities, towns and rural communities remains an elusive goal..

Ironically, in the same newspaper where I read McCullough’s column on the opinion page, there was a front page story reporting that Mississippi was one of nine states and Puerto Rico that lost population from July 2017 to July 2018, according to the Census Bureau.

To be fair, Mississippi’s population was down by only 3,122 residents, according to the report, which was less than Louisiana, said to be down by 10,840.

But Mississippi and Louisiana were the only two Sunbelt states that lost population during that period which doesn’t reflect the same optimistic picture that McCullough painted.

Promises of better days for Mississippi or assurances that they are already here have permeated politics  in Mississippi for as long as I can remember.

Ray Mabus, a Democrat who served as Mississippi’s governor from 1988 to 1992, ran on the slogan, “Mississippi Will Never Be Last Again.”

Kirk Fordice, the Republican who defeated and succeeded Mabus as governor,  had the saying, “Only Positive Mississippi Spoken Here,” attached to signs welcoming visitors to the state.

Wonder what the slogans will be during this year’s statewide elections?