Release date: Nov. 16, 2012
SCOOBA – Mississippi went from dead last to first in the nation in highway efficiency thanks to a 20-year plan put in place by the state Legislature to have a four-lane highway within 15 miles of all Mississippians.
It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t come without a bevy of obstacles.
But thanks to a shared vision and commitment, it did happen. On Thursday, Blake Wilson of the Mississippi Economic Council told those gathered at East Mississippi Community College that a similar vision and commitment are necessary for continued economic growth in the area.
“If we only worked on what needed to be done today, we wouldn’t have a building like this,” Wilson told a big crowd packed inside the brand-new F.R. Young Student Union. “You wouldn’t have a place like the Center for Manufacturing & Technology Excellence like you have on the Golden Triangle campus. It wouldn’t happen. Now, we need to take that line of thinking to the local level.”
Wilson, CEO and president of the MEC, was the keynote speaker at the Third Annual Industry Appreciation Luncheon at EMCC’s Scooba campus. A crowd of about 200 gathered for the event – which applauded recent accomplishments, talked of continued working relationships and recognized a host of industries in the area which work with EMCC.
A trio of Kemper County businesses was also honored during the event: Electric Mills Wood Preserving took home the Best Practices/Continued Improvement Award; the Scooba Focus Group won the Community Entrepreneurship Development Award; and the Kemper County Board of Supervisors received a Special Recognition Award.
The Industry Appreciation Luncheon has been a standing event at EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus for more than two decades. EMCC President Dr. Rick Young said the college has “been effective at not only recruiting but retaining industry” in that part of the college’s six-county district.
“We know what to do because you tell us what to do and we listen,” Young said. “Now, we want to do the same thing here and expand our workforce development on this campus.”
Young touted the Mississippi Power coal plant under construction in southwest Kemper County, and said Meridian’s prime geographic location makes it a natural choice for industrial growth.
“Opportunities are greater than they’ve ever been in Kemper County,” he said. “And, we will be expanding our services in Lauderdale County … the Golden Triangle has been in a boom stage, and there’s too many reasons for things to prosper in Lauderdale County.”
Young also said he’d like to see a workforce center in Scooba similar to the CMTE at the Mayhew campus, and acknowledged the school’s own growth in the last decade.
“We had a budget of about $20 million in 2004 and roughly $60 million now,” he said. “We not only have a stable of trained workers, but we’ve put a lot back into the community.”
A lot of that giving back has been in workforce development. Dr. Raj Shaunak, EMCC’s Vice President of Workforce and Community Services, pointed to the lay-off of about 1,600 employees at a Sara Lee plant in West Point as a traumatic experience in which the college was able to lend a hand.
“We provided short-term, flexible training so many of them could get jobs. Jobs at the Severstals, at the Eurocopters, at the Weyerhaeusers … wherever they were available," Shaunak said.
“Workforce … it’s training individuals so that they can become gainfully employed, and it’s vital. The only way for us to move up is educational attainment. Without it, we’ll never be as competitive as we need to be.”
And education, Wilson says, is one of the biggest priorities in Blueprint Mississippi – a cooperative program rolled out earlier this year for “putting Mississippi in the place of greatest opportunity.”
“It’s important that we realize many of our challenges here in Mississippi can lead to our biggest opportunities,” Wilson said. “We’ve proven we can win.
“We went to number one in the nation in highway efficiency due to a common, shared vision over a length of time. That’s what it’s going to take now: A common, shared vision; a common, shared commitment. And the vision has to come from a demanding public.”
Here’s a closer look at Thursday’s award recipients:
One year after receiving a Best Practices Award, Electric Mills Wood Preserving was recognized again with a Continuous Improvement Award. Electric Mills was commended for its Lean Manufacturing Improvement efforts which will result in six-figure savings.
The Scooba Focus Group received the Community Entrepreneurship Development Award after tackling the task of improving social and economic conditions in Scooba. The group was awarded a $3,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and has hosted a downtown festival in addition to working on storefront, museum and retail opportunities.
And, the Kemper County Board of Supervisors received a Special Recognition Award for its continued support of the college and “outstanding contributions and leadership with superior results in building communities and coalitions for educational development and economic enhancement.”
Kemper County District 1 Supervisor James “Pat” Granger accepts a Special Recognition Award on behalf of the Kemper County Board of Supervisors during the Third Annual Industrial Appreciation Luncheon on the Scooba campus. Presenting the award are EMCC Vice President of Workforce and Community Services Dr. Raj Shaunak, left, and EMCC President Dr. Rick Young.
The Scooba Focus Group took home the Community Entrepreneurship Development Award during the Third Annual Industrial Appreciation Luncheon held on the Scooba campus. Presenting the award were EMCC Vice President of Workforce and Community Services Dr. Raj Shaunak, left, and EMCC President Dr. Rick Young; and accepting on behalf of the Scooba Focus Group, from left, are Larry Waller and Mose Fleming.
Glynn Pittman, center, resource and operations manager for Electric Mills Wood Preserving, accepts the Best Practices/Continued Improvement Award during the Third Annual Industrial Appreciation Luncheon Thursdayon the Scooba campus. Presenting the award are EMCC Vice President of Workforce and Community Services Dr. Raj Shaunak, left, and EMCC President Dr. Rick Young.