OPINION: Here’s to a better decade

Whew! Glad this one is just about over.
“This,” as in the first decade of the new millennium, which nobody seems to know what to call.
The 2000s? The “aughts,” “the ’00s?”
Maybe “double aughts,” as one Jethro Clampett would say?
Ten years ago, we were worried about Y2K and the world coming to a screeching halt when the clock hit 01/01/00.
Little did we know that it would happen on 9/11/01.
The past decade has been marked by war and catastrophe (both manmade and natural). We’ve seen the stock market crash, rise, crash and rise again.
We’ve seen the economy become truly global, for better or worse.
Whether you’re in Tokyo or Tupelo, Berlin or Baldwyn, your world has no doubt changed.
Ten years ago, a blackberry was nothing more than a fruit. Google was something babies babbled. Starbucks – wasn’t he the guy in “Battlestar Galactica?”

Back to the future
I wasn’t in Northeast Mississippi 10 years ago, when the furniture industry was in good shape. But my predecessor here at the Daily Journal, Gary Perilloux, wrote about the coming wave of imports and the threat China posed to the industry. He spoke to industry leaders and industry workers, and even then they knew something was on the horizon.
And heading into the next decade, the furniture industry has at least 10,000 fewer workers than 10 years earlier.
But the past decade hasn’t been a complete disaster.
Economically, the region has grown, despite two recessions. Northeast Mississippi’s economic engine, Lee County, has managed to keep running:
– Per capita income has grown from $15,769 in 1990 to $25,227 in 2000 to more than $31,000 in 2007 (the latest available statistics). Statewide per capita income was $28,541.
– Gross retail sales have grown from $770 million in 1990 to $1.5 billion in 2000 and to more than $1.7 billion last year.
– Tupelo is home to two of the state’s top five largest financial institutions in the state – BancorpSouth and Renasant.
And the region has moved toward diversifying its economy. The manufacturing work force continues to be its strength.
Then there’s Toyota. While its plans to open next year have been delayed, the general feeling is that the plant in Blue Springs will open eventually – just not in the time frame everyone had hoped.
With the potential of 2,000 jobs at Toyota, plus another 2,000 with suppliers, it is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
So, we can look back at the past 10 years and bid it a fond farewell. Or not. But we can certainly hope the next decade will be better.
Unless that Mayan prediction comes true in about two years.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

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