STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Whether it’s insensitive comments made by an elected official, or a debate on whether to remove Confederate statues and the confederate emblem from the state flag, controversial topics are continuing to emerge in the Magnolia State.
These hot topics can concern for business leaders looking to come into the state.
“If you care and say you are pro business in Mississippi, I don’t see how you can support the present flag,” said Jeffrey Rupp, director of outreach at Mississippi State University’s the college of business.
Rupp served as mayor of Columbus in the early 2000s and said even then, the state flag was a concern for businesses looking to locate in the Magnolia State.
“I know when I was mayor and we were competing with other states for industry, they would subscribe to our newspapers, they would go online and see what the TV station was reporting,” said Rupp. “This stuff has an impact.”
Rupp believes the confederate emblem impacts the state’s ability to attract new businesses and help with economic growth.
“I don’t think that the flag itself is enough of a reason to keep someone from coming here, but economic development is such a competitive landscape and Mississippi has so many disadvantages as far as small population, rural, not a lot of resources, why we we’d want to give ourselves any additional disadvantage is beyond me,” said Rupp.
Rupp works with entrepreneurs at MSU who want to start up new businesses.
He said one of their goals is to get business owners to stay in the state, but Rupp understands how much of a challenge that’s going to be moving forward.
“The flag doesn’t make it any easier,” said Rupp. “Two of our latest million dollar startups are minority owned companies. How do you tell them oh, the flag is OK. It matters.”
That’s why he believes adopting a new flag could help the state become more attractive economically, and would cast out what many are calling a negative shadow
“The fact that we are talking about it today tells you that it’s not going to go away,” he said.
Two of the states top economic development agencies, Mississippi Development Economic Council, and the Mississippi Economic Council, have recently called for new flag due to the impact they believe it’ll have on economic development.