Let’s be honest about Amazon and our current state of small and midsized business growth

By Aaron Rice
July 29, 2019

One of the most important goals we have for Mississippi is to get our small and mid-sized businesses growing more rapidly.

We want to see a day in the not too distant future when our state’s economy is driven more by private sector actions than by the public sector ones. That will require a lot of changes, including reducing the heavy role governments, and government officials and politicians, play in our economy. It will require less restrictions, fewer regulations, a reduction in licensing regimes, the elimination of protectionism, a commitment to robust competition, and a devaluing of the favor-seeking component of business in the Magnolia State.

The hallmark of a strong and durable economy is a high level of competition, a high number of start-ups, and acknowledgement that pursuing customer delight is more valuable than pursuing legislative support.

An integral part of the motivation to change any person, policy, or action is first to recognize a problem exists in the first place. That requires honesty. It also requires humility. Only after the recognition can we actually commit to making the changes required. Once we make the commitment, then all that remains is the courage to change. Mississippi has no shortage of courage, so I’m very confident in the ability of the free market and capitalism to help us drive small and mid-sized business growth.

Nothing can produce long-term economic growth like a commitment to unfettered capitalism – the kind that has produced thousands of examples of unplanned, unpredicted, and unprecedented private sector success. 

However, we are not always honest about our current situation. Too often our elected officials and government employees expend much effort claiming success, cheerleading isolated reports, and denying systemic problems.

A ribbon-cutting or a groundbreaking announcement doesn’t indicate success, unless you work in the Department of Economic Development, it indicates a partnership whereby government has agreed to invest a portion of taxpayer money to a particular company in a particular industry. I’m happy when we convince companies to move to Mississippi or to build a facility here, but I’d rather see us celebrating the unprecedented growth of companies that were born here and managed to grow here without asking the taxpayers for assistance. We can do both, and we should do more of the latter.

A good example of our leaders’ penchant for hyperbolic celebration of economic news is the creative way an Amazon-produced, small business report has been turned into something it is not. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times from politicians, business leaders, and media members, “Amazon, the world’s largest company, just ranked Mississippi as the fastest growing state for small and mid-sized business.” That is simply not true.

What Amazon actually did was produce a report focused on its own small and mid-sized business partners in the U.S. (SMBs) that sell products directly through Amazon’s stores. Of the SMBs selling within Amazon’s digital platform, Mississippi was ranked first of the 10 fastest growing states.

While that is certainly good news, it has been grossly exaggerated and used to suggest Mississippi is one of the fastest growing states for small and mid-sized businesses. The data does not support such a statement. 

While we are making some gains in business climate rankings, we continue to lag behind our neighbors in the Southeast and most of our competitors in the nation in many categories. There is some encouraging news but we should not deceive ourselves about the work we have left to do.

Here is a sampling of the most recent business-related rankings.

50Information Technology and Innovation        New Economy Index
50State Competiveness     Beacon Hill Institute
50Growth ProspectsForbes
50Share of Manufacturing Employment from Small BusinessUS Small Business Administration
46Best States for BusinessUSA Today
48Top States for BusinessCNBC
48Share of State Revenue from Federal Gov’tSmall Business Policy Index
48Share of Venture Capital DealsUSA Today
45Economic Climate RankForbes
46Number of Full-time Gov’t Employees per 100 Residents    Small Business Policy Index
46Gov’t Spending as Share of EconomyInstitute for Market Studies
44Best State for Business  Forbes
44Growth of Number of ProprietorsUS Small Business Administration
42Economic Freedom Index          Frazier Institute
39Best Place to Start a Business    FitSmall Business
37GDP Growth Rate (2018 )Bureau of Economic Analysis
49Growth of Young Population (2014-17)         US News and World Report
44Net Migration (2014-17)US News and World Report
31Overall Tax RankingsTax Foundation
35Sales Tax RankingTax Foundation
36Property Tax RankingTax Foundation
15Corporate Tax RankingTax Foundation
46Fiscal FreedomCato Institute
35Economic FreedomCato Institute


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