OUR OPINION: ‘Grow Mississippi’ sends positive signal

By NEMS Daily Journal

BancorpSouth’s commitment of $500 million in a loan pool – Grow Mississippi – specifically targeted toward job development opportunities in Mississippi makes a powerful statement to the business and investment sectors within our state and nationwide about institutional confidence in growth and profit scenarios.
BancorpSouth, headquartered in Tupelo, is the largest Mississippi-based bank. It has operations in eight states and 292 individual sites in its footprint.
Announcement of the loan pool was made in Jackson, with Gov. Phil Bryant and Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Brent Christensen’s attendance a visible symbol of the state’s potential partnering and collaboration in some of the business generated by the loan pool, and moral support for such a strong commitment specifically for Mississippi investments.
David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Community Development Foundation of Tupelo, said he believes potential investor/partners who have accumulated cash waiting for an economic upturn would be some of the prime customers for a loan pool like BancorpSouth’s.
Having held off investing in new equipment and plant improvement, those owners may now be ready to reinvest and expand in their existing Mississippi operations.
BancorpSouth’s commitment also fits into the recommendation of the economic development plan called Blueprint Mississippi, developed by the Mississippi Economic Council with strong participation by some of BancorpSouth’s executives, to “increase availability of financial capital.”
Blueprint, which is substantially implemented, called for tools to stimulate private sector R&D spending, incentives and support for angel investments, tools and incentives to increase capital to support minority and rural businesses and investment in new technologies for efficiencies and savings.
BancorpSouth has about $8.5 billion in existing loan business and total assets of $13.4 billion.
Bank officers said at the Jackson press conference that more loan pool commitment could be made as the program develops.
In announcing the initiative, BancorpSouth CEO Dan Rollins said in a statement reported on industry news sites, “This initial commitment of $500 million is being allocated for the specific purpose of funding loans to businesses and entrepreneurs seeking to locate in our state, as well as for existing businesses looking to expand operations. Additional funding will be added to the loan pool during the year if needed, depending on our success in identifying qualified candidates.”
BancorpSouth is expected to use its insurance and mortgage banking lines of business, treasury management, asset management and trust, corporate banking and equipment financing in the undertaking. Gov. Phil Bryant said he hopes the pool grows to $1 billion by the end of 2013.
In Alabama, earlier, Regions Bank announced that it would commit $1 billion to that state’s economic development loan pool specifically for businesses located in Alabama.
BancorpSouth’s commitment will help Mississippi compete for jobs and prosperity in the head-to-head venues of new growth.

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