November 21, 2017 10:17:57 AM
In Sunday's Dispatch, Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins pulled no punches in his criticism of state leadership on the issue of economic development.
Higgins said that in his role as Mississippi Development Authority Director Glenn McCullough is prone to playing favorites by supporting sites around the state for projects, has failed to form a cohesive strategy for recruiting that goes beyond offering tax incentives and has failed in attracting and retaining quality project managers.
Higgins said Gov. Phil Bryant's unyielding advocacy of HB1523 -- which permits state businesses to openly discriminate against LGBT community -- and his willingness to skate the issue of the state flag, with its conspicuous Confederate imagery, by passing it off to the voters, has become an impediment to recruiting industry wary of the intolerant image the state projects.
Since his arrival here 14 years ago, we have grown accustomed to Higgins' plain-spoken, often crude manner.
In most cases, Higgins' message, if not his manner, has been spot-on.
Over his time here, he has established his credibility. The industries that have arrived here under Higgins' tenure -- PACCAR, Airbus Helicopters, Steel Dynamics and Yokohama being the most prominent examples -- make that argument.
So when Higgins talks, his words have weight.
In one particular aspect of his criticisms of the state's economic development landscape, those words work to undermine his message.
Specifically, Higgins said Bryant's devotion to HB1523 is an unforced error.
But in making that charge, he has made an unforced error of his own.
"I'm the least likely guy to be a (LGBT) advocate," Higgins said. "I ain't gonna beat one up or anything, but I'd just as soon not be around that s***."
That's an alarming statement, unacceptable even from someone from whom we have grown accustomed to plain talk.
Like everyone, Higgins is free to have his private opinions about LGBT people.
But when Higgins speaks in his role as LINK CEO, he speaks for all of us. When the best that can be said of an LGBT person is that you won't beat them and that you don't want to be in the presence of an LGBT person, it only affirms the negative message of HB1523 Higgins criticizes.
Unlike other instances when Higgins has used coarse language to make his point, this is not a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of decency for a group of people many of us know as family, friends and neighbors, a group not unfamiliar with rejection and even violence.
There is a line of decency and decorum that should not be crossed.
There are no exceptions, not even for our exceptional economic development CEO.
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