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The State of the South 2002: Shadows in the Sunbelt Revisited

While several metropolitan areas have burgeoned and some rural communities have made a successful economic transition, economic shadows have darkened in many Southern rural and urban places that have no distinctive competitive advantages in today’s economy, according to State of the South 2002, MDC’s latest analysis of the Southern economy and how the region’s people are faring in it. The report calls for a focus on increasing competitiveness of regions while ensuring economic equity for all the South’s people; it includes eight major recommendations to achieve those goals:

— Refocus the state agencies responsible for economic development to pursue a broader, more strategic approach. State governments should not measure success simply by the number of new jobs, but also in terms of higher incomes for people and improved competitiveness of regions within the states.

— Modernize tax systems, so that states have the fiscal capacity to provide excellent education, widely accessible job training, necessary infrastructure, and community amenities that enrich the soil for economic advancement.

— Tighten performance criteria for industrial incentives – and encourage associations of Southern governors and legislators to reexamine the one-dimensional, incentives-driven recruitment strategy in favor of a comprehensive economic development strategy.

— Preserve and enhance rural communities by forging regional collaborations and rural/metropolitan linkages to break their isolation and improve their competitiveness.

— Develop a set of metropolitan-focused policies to assure sustained economic and quality-of-life improvements in burgeoning metro areas on which the South has grown increasingly dependent.

— Dramatically expand efforts to erase serious deficits along the entire education continuum in the South, and bolster the education, health, and well being of children from birth to five-years-old as a prelude to greater achievement.

— Draw on the power of the South’s universities and community colleges to act as catalysts for state and regional economic advancement.

— Aggressively support universities, community colleges, and nonprofits to prepare public officials to address the region’s tough challenges and to raise up a new generation of civic leaders.

State of the South 2002, the fourth edition in the State of the South series, revisits MDC’s groundbreaking 1986 report, Shadows in the Sunbelt. A panel of distinguished Southerners convened by MDC guided the report’s development.

During the next three months, MDC will convey the report’s findings andpolicy recommendations to the region and its decision-makers, including governors, business leaders, legislators, educators, philanthropists, and nonprofit leaders. Strategies include a major media campaign, direct contact, and presentations across the region.

The report, funded by the Ford Foundation, is available for download from our web site, http://www.mdcinc.org, and printed hard copies are available for purchase. Our web site also contains numerous additional resources related to the recommendations found within the report. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss opportunities for motivating change in the region.

MDC’s mission is to advance the South through strategies that expand opportunity, reduce poverty, and build inclusive communities. Established in 1967, MDC is a private, nonprofit organization supported with grants and contracts from foundations; federal, state, and local governments; and the private sector.

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