Economy and Jobs

I know how important Mississippi’s small businesses are to our state’s economy. For as long as I can remember, I worked in my family’s small business. — At Century Funeral Home, I greeted customers, collected funeral dues, typed up premium books on insurance policies- and when I was older, I regularly handled funeral ceremonies.

Starting and running a small business takes incredible perseverance, hard work, and a love for our community. Mississippi’s small businesses are a huge part of our state’s economy, making up almost 50% of our state’s private-sector workforce. Our leaders need to do more to support our small businesses, especially our minority, LGBTQ+, and women-owned businesses, by providing them the tools they need to grow.

Mississippi’s leaders have failed to make the long-term investments that would allow our state to grow and compete in the 21st century. Our economy relies heavily on low-wage, service jobs, creating an income gap between our state and the rest of the nation. As that gap has grown, our young professionals flee to other states in search of higher pay and diverse career opportunities. A lot of people refer to this as the “brain drain” crisis.

Mississippi’s economy can’t afford to keep playing catch up — especially not with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting our economy.. That’s why I’ll focus on creating the conditions to build an innovative economy right here.

We cannot have high tech jobs when so many Mississippians can’t even access high-speed internet required for work and education. As your senator, my first priority will be to expand broadband access to all Mississippians. No matter where you live, you should be able to get online — especially during this pandemic when so much of our daily lives is now virtual.

Mississippi’s employers are facing a shortage of trained workers to fill jobs. I will work to tailor our apprenticeships and job training programs to match the needs of our employers. We’ll create new programs and expand our successful ones, such as the workforce training pilot program at our community colleges. By working with employers to expand training and retraining for jobs they need most, we can match education with our most in-demand jobs.

I will work to encourage the federal government to increase the availability of capital to our small businesses and start-ups by building new partnerships with community finance institutions and minority development institutions. In addition, I will support and expand opportunities for our manufacturers, especially in our rural communities.

As Secretary of Agriculture, I helped to design the Empowerment Zone program and as a member of Congress, I authored a proposal signed into law by President Reagan: the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Act. Both measures advanced business, education and development in Mississippi. I strongly support promoting and expanding the federal Opportunity Zones program, which has the potential to spur much-needed growth in Mississippi by attracting investments and creating jobs. We need to make sure that those who are taking advantage of the program are putting capital where it matters most — in our underserved rural and urban communities.

Creating a robust economy requires federal leaders to stop holding Mississippi back. I believe in respecting the dignity and equality of every person is not only the moral thing to do, but the right thing to do for our state’s economy. Mississippians pride themselves on hospitality; as your Senator, I will help show people why our state is worth visiting — and why they should come back.