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Mississippi Colleges

Mississippi Colleges

 

Mississippi entered the Union in 1817, seven years after its southern portion was annexed from Spain along with Florida.  Much of the state is river bottomland or low plateaus, with fertile soil and a long, hot summer.  From the time that settlers in the area became growers and some plantation owners, cotton was the principal crop.  It remained so through the Great Depression.  After the Civil War, former slaves became cheap labor or sharecroppers and the dominance of cotton continued.

 

Soybeans came into dominance at the midpoint of the last century and became the number one crop in terms of planted acreage.  Recently however, cotton has returned to the fore and Mississippi now follows only Texas among the fifty states in cotton production. 

 

Today the state is attempting to diversify its economy, providing state incentives to businesses willing to locate within the state’s borders.  It has been doing so for decades, since the Tennessee Valley Authority brought modernization to the area.  The discovery of oil in the state and along the Gulf Coast has led to industrialization in the petrochemical sector.  The legalization of gambling in the Biloxi area has brought in a wave of tourism and tax dollars that have been of substantial benefit in recent years. 

 

Tourism is on the rise generally in the state.   Its access to the Gulf Coast has led to the development of beachfront resorts and, of course, the recent gambling industry.   Much of it is in the process of being rebuilt following Hurricane Katrina: one estimate has it that the state lost $500,000 a day in gambling taxes following the hurricane’s destruction of the riverboat casinos on the Mississippi.

 

Aside from the delta areas that are under cultivation, much of southern Mississippi is covered with a pine forest that reaches to within a few miles of the grasslands along the coastal plain.  Pulp and other wood products are extracted from the forested areas.  The Mississippi River is part of a migratory path for many species of birds and the state is a stopover for them, particularly in its marshlands and wetlands.  Hunters are drawn to the state’s rural areas, while the sport fishing industry does well off the coastal areas around Biloxi.  There is a commercial fishery there as well.  One of the more unusual commercial agricultural ventures is aquafarming: the commercial raising and harvesting of catfish.

 

Jackson is the state’s capital, a city of 200,000.  It has a manufacturing area that produces aerospace equipment, agricultural machinery, construction materials and machined steel products.  One of the University of Mississippi campuses is there.  Others are in Oxford and Tupelo.  Mississippi has struggled to raise its economic status for decades and is making progress step by small step.  The oil industry gave the state a positive jolt; introduction of the gaming business has been a more recent positive development.  For all of that, the median income for the state remains at or near the bottom of the rankings for the fifty states.  One way to look at that fact, however, is that Mississippi is a state where someone who is energized and has a college education can make a real contribution.

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