But one of the toughest challenges may be one of the most basic - getting everybody in the state counted.
In 2010, the nation will have its decennial census as prescribed by the Constitution. To say there's a lot riding on the outcome is an understatement.
An accurate count can make the difference in how much of $400 billion in federal aid Mississippi gets. The census also determines how many representatives each state gets in Congress for the next 10 years.
The 2000 census hit Mississippi with the loss of one of its five congressional seats. While our state showed some population growth, it wasn't as much as others who gained additional Washington representation at Mississippi's expense.
The U.S. Census bureau issues annual population estimates, and Mississippi in the recently released 2009 figures has 2,951,996 people, a 0.4 percent increase over 2008 and about 3.8 percent more than the official 2000 count of 2,844,666. Obviously, that's not fast-paced growth, which makes counting everyone next year that much more important.
One of the factors that is likely to hurt Mississippi is the outmigration from the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina's devastation uprooted so many lives in 2005. A lot of those residents moved into other parts of Mississippi, but others left the state entirely.
Some activists are lobbying for a special Census along the Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama coasts after the official 2010 count, which is supposed to reflect where people are living as of April 1. But that would be costly, and there's no indication of where the money would come from.
It won't be long before the Census effort cranks up. Census forms will be mailed or delivered to every household in March, with a request that they be returned by April 1, which is "National Census Day." From April through July, workers will knock on doors of those households that didn't return a form. In December, an official report with the numbers will be delivered to the president.
Mississippians can do their state a great favor by responding to the Census and returning the form as instructed. This will save everyone time and money, as well as helping ensure an accurate count.
This isn't some intrusive exercise by the federal government; it's a necessary procedure firmly rooted in our constitutional system. In short, cooperating fully with Census takers is a patriotic thing to do - and of vital importance to our state.