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Our View: The state of the state

 

 

 

As is commonly done Gov. Phil Bryant used Tuesday's state of the state address to emphasize the positives while making only opaque references to the issues that continue to trouble or present and cloud our future. 

 

That is the nature of state of the state addresses, which generally serve as pep rallies before legislators dive into their legislative sessions. 

 

Tuesday's speech, Bryant touted the state's low unemployment rate and the abundance of jobs in making his case that Mississippi is "good" on the way to becoming "great." 

 

Whether you agree with the governor's assessment or not, even the unemployment rate (at 4.8 percent, the lowest rate in the state in four decades) and the availability of jobs (40,000 job listings on the state's Mississippi Works website), do not accurately reflect the big picture. 

 

In truth, we are losing -- and have been losing -- our greatest asset. 

 

Just a week ago, the state's Institutions of Higher Learning, released the results of a 2016 study that provides important context to the jobs picture in Mississippi. 

 

According to a study commissioned by the IHL, 40 percent of graduates from Mississippi's eight public universities leave the state within five years of graduation. 

 

That exodus climbs even higher among graduates with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees. According to the report, 56 percent of those who earned STEM degrees in 2013 were working in other states a year after graduating. 

 

This is a devastating statistic. 

 

The state has lost population for three straight years. And many of those who are leaving are those we can least afford to lose -- bright, ambitious young people with the kinds of ideas that could truly shape a better future for our state. It's called a "brain drain" and has long been an affliction for our state.  

 

When we consider how those generations of outstanding young people might have shaped our state over the years, and in the years to come, we feel a sense of lost opportunity that limits our potential. 

 

Without visionaries, there can be no vision. Without leaders, there can be no progress. Without talent, potential is limited. 

 

There is some talk of providing tax or student-loan credits for talented college graduates who will agree to stay in state, but unless and until there are real opportunities for these young Mississippians, there is little hope those grads will remain. 

 

Mississippians have always had a strong work ethic, but when most of the available jobs feature low pay (our state continues to lead the nation in per capita minimum-wage workers), Mississippians will continue to look elsewhere for jobs that allow them to build a real future for themselves and their families. A tax credit isn't much of an inducement if you can't find a job in your field. 

 

For too long, the state's inability to create a climate where our best young people can flourish continues to mean our best young people must leave to find those opportunities. 

 

Mississippians are doing great things. 

 

Mostly, in other states.

 

 

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