Blackmon says state should offer more help to small businesses
The Star: How much would a program you are talking about cost, and where would we get the money for it?
Blackmon: Generally these kinds of programs are bonded. To begin, we would only need about $20 million to $25 million. Since I've been in the Legislature, our bonding capacity each year is roughly $250 million to $300 million. These are general obligation bonds, but we can also look at creating a mechanism for those businesses to pay back assistance.
The Star: How did you determine small business owners need more help?
Blackmon: As I've traveled across the state, not just in my campaign for lieutenant governor but as a state senator, we had forums across the state and all of the people who were interested in business would come and say, "We don't have one place we can go to get information about what kind of programs we have. We don't have one place we can go to get assistance in developing a business plan. We don't have one place we can go to get information on what kinds of grants and loans are available."
We had the director of the small business division of the Mississippi Development Authority traveling with us and he would be saying "We have this program available, and we have that program available, and we have a regional office in your area." But no one even knew that those programs or the regional office was available.
The Star: How will more attention to small businesses affect the state?
Blackmon: I'm trying to focus on existing businesses that need some small assistance like the purchase of some computers or the purchase of some printing equipment or the purchase of a refrigeration unit for a restaurant those kinds of things that would make the businesses operate more efficiently and could perhaps increase the customer base so that they would be able to hire other individuals.
The Star: As lieutenant governor, what would you do differently from what has been done in the past four years?
Blackmon: We know the committee process controls the legislation and right now we have committee chairs, who some don't have college degrees. We try to tell our children and all of our citizens that education is the way to go, education opens doors, you are not limited in your thinking through college. If we are saying that to our citizens, then we need to have committee chairs who are reflective of that philosophy.
I understand the rules of the Senate. But the Senate has operated in chaos. I would bring order to chaos. It's important to have someone who understands the rules of the Senate to maintain the order of the Senate.
I have the ability to work with all the senators. I know their strengths, I know their weaknesses and I would ensure that the best and brightest minds are directing the committees because we want to have full and open debate of the issues. Under the current leadership there are committee chairs who don't want any debate because they really don't know what the legislation is about.