An update on what's happening in Mississippi from an economic standpoint was presented to Philadelphia Rotarians last week by the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Mississippi Economic Council.

Scott Waller told Rotarians that MEC looks at many different things throughout the year that are designed to promote the state's economy.

He recognized Philadelphia and noted that it was home to two past chairmen of MEC, Don Kilgore and Bill Yates.

While we often hear that Mississippi is last in this and that, Waller said MEC has learned that is really not true, he said.

"There are a lot of good things happening," he said.

He talked briefly about MEC's Blue Print Mississippi plan which was started in 2004 and updated in 2011.

The plan is designed to give officials a roadmap of what we need to do from an economic development standpoint to be successful, Waller said.

The first Blue Print looked at the business climate. The second looked a nine different areas where the state can improve its economic competitiveness, such as education and healthcare, among others.

Waller told Rotarians that the state's overall economic outlook is ranked 10th nationally and third among Southern states.

In the area of entrepreneurial activity, Mississippi is fifth nationally and first among Southern states.

"We are truly in a position to be successful moving forward," Waller said. "This didn't happen by accident. It was a lot of hard work by the business leadership at MEC, our state leaders and everybody making sure that we put this in place so we can have a competitive economy."

Waller said a solid foundation fortifies Mississippi's economy, and spoke about the state's shipbuilding, aviation, furniture and agriculture/timber industries.

Mississippi is number one among Southern states in shipbuilding.

Ingalls Shipbuilding provides 10,000 jobs and is the state's largest manufacturing employer.

NASA tests all engines for its space crafts in Mississippi at the Stennis Space Center where there are more than 5,000 public and private sector jobs.

In addition, VT Halter, Signal, Gulf Coast Shipyard Group and others provide 5,000 jobs within that industry.

Mississippi ranks number one in the Southern states in the furniture industry with more than 47,000 jobs. Major national brands are produced in the state such as La-Z-boy, Ashley and Franklin, Waller said.

The state is also ranked number one in the agriculture /timber industry in employment impact among Southern states.

Mississippi's poultry industry ranks second among Southern states.

Waller told Rotarians that the forestry industry alone employs 63,000 while poultry employs 55,000.

These industries have helped build a different type of economy in Mississippi, with a shift from low skill and low wage jobs.

"Mississippi is progressing to an economy featuring a workforce with advanced skills," he said.

Waller also talked briefly about Nissan, telling Rotarians that it built the largest automotive plant in the world on a single site, which was once as a pasture, from the ground up.

Nissan employs 5,000, he said, noting that 90 to 95 percent of the employees were from Mississippi when it opened.

There are more than 21,000 spin off and indirect jobs from the automotive industry in Mississippi, Waller said.

Waller urged support of MEC and its Blueprint Mississippi plan, telling Rotarians that it was designed for a more prosperous, vibrant and resilient Mississippi, built upon a foundation of economic opportunity for all its citizens.