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From left, Mississippi Economic Council interim President/CEO Scott Waller, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto Administrator/CEO James Huffman and DeSoto County Schools Chief Operations Officer Rob Chase listen as Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite talks about economic successes in his city and DeSoto County at a MEC Tour visit to the Landers Center Wednesday.  

Bob Bakken|DTT

State economic officials came to DeSoto County this week to hear from local business leaders about what makes this a great place to live, while touting the things that are going well and succeeding on a statewide level.

The Mississippi Economic Council (MEC), with interim President/CEO Scott Waller presenting, made one of several statewide stops Wednesday to a luncheon event at the Landers Center in Southaven.

The MEC is considered the state’s Chamber of Commerce and Waller is its chief executive, replacing Blake Wilson, who retired earlier this year.

Wednesday’s meeting was as much fact finding as it was success touting, Waller said.

“Part of what we’ve included this year is a community panel and we get them to talk about some of the great things that’s happening right here in DeSoto County that really have an impact on helping this area grow and be successful,” Waller said.

The panel at the Southaven event included Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto Administrator/CEO James Huffman, and Rob Chase, Chief Operations Officer for DeSoto County Schools.

Musselwhite pointed to Southaven’s location and ability to maintain a high level of public safety among its advantages.

“Southaven has the benefit of its geographic location next to a great metropolitan area but yet, we don’t have some of the negatives that go with a metropolitan area like some areas so,” Musselwhite said. “We’ve been able to maintain consistent levels of public safety. That may sound simple to some, but when you have population growth and you have growth in general, it speaks well that we’ve been able to maintain public safety while having growth. That’s a big accomplishment.”

Huffman believes community support through the years has helped his hospital become one of the regional leaders in medical and health care.

“We’ve gotten tremendous support in this community and that has allowed us to re-invest in keeping our technology second-to-none and being able to have the capacity to allow us to provide great care,” Huffman said. “Health care workers tend to be younger, which means they are mobile. I can attract new people to come here, because it is a good place to live and people want to be here.”

Chase, alluding to the fact that the state’s largest school district now enrolls over 34,000 students in its attendance centers, said the growth has not weakened the district’s ability to provide top-notch education.

“Dual enrollment is up, our partnership with Northwest Mississippi Community College now has about 1,000 students participating in dual enrollment class," Chase said. "That allows them to get college credit ahead of time.”

Waller said DeSoto County is one of the success stories the state of Mississippi has about a growing economy. He hopes others can learn from DeSoto County’s successes.

“We are one state; that is the bottom line. DeSoto County plays a big role in that process,” Waller said. “Together we can all be successful and we have to work together to do that. Everywhere we’ve been, the economy has been in positive numbers. Even our shows in the Mississippi Delta believe the economy today is better than it was five years ago.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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