By Bo Lewis
State Treasurer Tate Reeves visited Brookhaven Wednesday to speak to Kiwanis Club members about his accomplishments in office and his ideas to better Mississippi's economy.
"The number one priority we need is job creation," Reeves said, "while understanding that the government does not create the jobs, just the environment for jobs to be created."
The Republican expressed a strong belief that a key to economic development in Mississippi is getting people from out-of-state to visit at least once.
"If we can ever get people to come once, they'll like what they see," Reeves said. "If we can ever convince those with capital to invest to come here just one time, they'll like it. We need our future leaders to work hard to get those people here."
He said the second priority should focus on improving the educational attainment level of citizens. Not only is it a great thing for children now, he said, but it also will have greater dividends on long-term economic development.
Reeves, Mississippi's treasurer since 2003 and now a candidate for lieutenant governor, went on to describe some of the duties he performed during his time as state treasurer.
One of the core functions of the treasury office is handling unclaimed property, according to Reeves. While in office, Reeves claimed to have given $75 million back to Mississippians in unclaimed property.
Reeves explained unclaimed property consists of old utility deposits, old checking accounts and the like.
His best day as a public servant came when he was able to hand a check to a woman in Corinth whose father died. Processing the unclaimed property of the woman's father enabled Reeves to give her a check for $243,000.
Reeves recalled the woman, tears in her eyes, looking up at him and saying, "Honey, with that much money, I got to have me a hug."
Unclaimed property is good for the individual and for local economies, Reeves said.
"Consumers tend to consume," he said. "If I come to Brookhaven with a thousand dollars for someone, they're going to go right out into the town and spend some."
Reeves encouraged every citizen to check the state treasury website, http://www.treasury.state.ms.us/, to see if they have unclaimed property in their name. According to him, one in four Mississippians has unclaimed funds.
Revisiting education, Reeves said his office has set up two types of funds people can use to save money for their child's college education.
There is a pre-pay fund in which a deposit is made and turned over to the child when that child is ready for college. The other, Reeves said, is like a 401(k) plan in that parents choose how they invest and what all goes into the account.
Reeves stressed that because of these funds, 35,000 children now have money to go to college, and that not one cent is from taxpayers because it all comes from those participating in the treasury office's funding options.
Reeves also took questions from the Kiwanis crowd. One member asked Reeves why he decided to run for lieutenant governor after being treasurer.
"I believe that having someone who understands the economic things like budgets, and having someone who stands up for his beliefs, like I have, is exactly what is needed in the legislature," Reeves said.
Another question Reeves answered was about getting new viable businesses to stay in the state.
Reeves explained that one of the first things site consultants look at is whether or not a workforce exists within a small radius from the worksite.
"But in Mississippi, people choose where to live, then they decide where to work," Reeves said.
It is important to make site consultants understand this because it is not as usual in other parts of the country, he said.
At the end of his speech, Reeves summed up his reasons for bidding for the lieutenant governor office of Mississippi.
"If you want things done as they have been done in the past 20 years, then I'm not your guy," he said. "If you want someone with true, fiscal conservative values and who will stand up for his beliefs, I'm your guy."