By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Gov. Haley Barbour told members of the Mississippi Economic Council on Thursday that the state has made great progress, but the work to improve Mississippi has just begun.
“We have just started,” said Barbour, who is in his final year as governor. “I am going to be gone, but this work has to continue.”
Barbour made his comments to about 1,800 MEC members who attended the group’s 62nd annual meeting at the Jackson Convention Complex. At the luncheon, Barbour was honored and the state’s tourism industry was highlighted.
The governor and Bob Santelli, executive director of the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, also announced that the first affiliate of the California museum would be located in the Mississippi Delta in Cleveland.
The plan, Santelli said, is to build the $10 million museum near the Delta Music Institute at Delta State University. “The state of Mississippi is the cradle of American music,” Santelli said.
Reed’s last function as chairman
The annual luncheon was the last official function for Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. as chairman of the MEC. Reed’s year-long term began at the 2010 annual luncheon.
In his final words to the MEC members, he urged them to help Mississippi enact a pre-kindergarten program as most other Southern states have done.
Of not having a program, he said, “I am convinced it is Mississippi’s most significant weakness and most significant opportunity to move us forward.”
Barbour reiterated many of the themes he has touched on during his soon-to-be eight years in office. He said he believes that the response of Mississippians after Hurricane Katrina gave the world – particularly the business community – a positive impression of the state.
“It got people to take another look at Mississippi and they liked what they saw,” he said.
Barbour said it was “a blessing” to be governor during the watershed event.
The governor, a potential presidential candidate, gave no hints about his future plans on the national stage.
Despite the speculation, on Thursday it was all about Mississippi.
“We have turned a corner,” he said, adding “we have to keep our foot on the accelerator.”
Before Barbour spoke, the group was entertained by the Homemade Jamz Blues Band of Tupelo.