Waller: Arkansas does well while Mississippi struggles
WALLER VISITS MERIDIAN Meridian businessman Ronnie Massey, left, visits with former Mississippi Gov. Bill Waller before he spoke Monday to the Meridian Rotary Club. Waller, governor from 1972-1976, talked about the state economy and other issues. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Will Bardwell / staff writer
Aug. 19, 2003
Former Gov. Bill Waller just can't understand it: How has Arkansas been so successful economically while Mississippi continues to struggle?
Waller, governor from 1972-1976, told the Meridian Rotary Club on Monday that Arkansas faces tougher economic challenges yet Mississippi still lags behind in most categories.
Waller, who spoke to about 50 Rotary members at Howard Johnson's, said the state economy has been held back by the buyouts of major Mississippi corporations, such as Jitney Jungle and McRae's, and departure of their headquarters.
Meanwhile, Waller said, Arkansas has benefited from serving as corporate headquarters for Dillard's, Tyson's Chicken and Wal-Mart.
Waller pointed to Peavey Electronics in Meridian and the Nissan auto plant in Canton as bright spots for the state. The Nissan plant opened earlier this year and is expected to employ more than 5,000 people by 2004.
According to Waller, state government must take a more active role in supporting the growth of small businesses.
Waller said that a willingness to evolve economically is the key to solving the state's problems.
Waller also encouraged the audience to vote in the Aug. 26 runoff election and then the general election on Nov. 4.
Waller, however, didn't endorse incumbent Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove or Republican challenger Haley Barbour as being more capable of getting the state's economy back on track.
Musgrove meets Barbour and three other third-party candidates in the general election.