South Mississippi Industries Could Bolster Budget

Oreck Manufacturing is a success story in a state that needs more success stories to bolster its budget.

John Haas is plant manager at Oreck's Long Beach Industrial Park complex.

"I think it has to do with the fact that we do a tremendous amount of training," he said.

Haas oversees a staff of more than 650 that goes through extensive training to build vacuums.

"I think through that process, that's why we've been able to maintain the quality level," he said, "which translates right into people hanging onto their vacuum cleaners."

Oreck was one of the stops on the Leadership Gulf Coast economic tour. The 40 member entourage also visited Beau Rivage, the Port of Gulfport, and the Business Technology Center.

The class of 2005 got to watch different facets of South Mississippi's economic engine roll off assembly lines.

Steve Polk grew up in north Mississippi. He's spent the last decade living on the coast.

"It's really kind of a hidden secret," he said of his new home, and its industrial base.

Every time Gov. Barbour takes a tour like this, he talks about how much he counts on South Mississippi to bolster the state's economy. That's especially important now -- when the governor is trying to lay out a vision for Mississippi that fits into the state's current budget restraints.

Polk thinks the best way to do that is to get the state to model itself after South Mississippi.

"The ability to produce dollars for the whole state is endless down here," he said.

That lesson was reinforced on the Leadership Gulf Coast field trip.