TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – It was a packed house at the Bancorpsouth Conference Center as the Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi gave its annual progress report.
“We have a set of regional goals and our main goal is to push up per capita income , primary way we see to do that is to improve educational attainment, so a lot of our initiatives focus on education,” said Lewis Whitfield, of the Create Foundation.
The numbers back that up, in 2006, per capita income for the region was $25,271 dollars and the percent of the population, 25 years and older with a high school diploma was nearly 69 percent.
Last year, per capita income was $31,673 dollars while the percent of population 25 years and older with a high school diploma was at 78.15%.
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn said public education statewide must show improvements.
“We’ve got to raise the bar, got to have greater expectations among our students, parents we have got to say we have to compete nationally, that translates into an educated workforce which translates into companies coming to Mississippi which makes us a more prosperous state,” Speaker Gunn said.
Another way to spur economic development is for counties to work together. A Golden Triangle economic development official said cooperation was key when it came to attracting a tire manufacturer.
“There is competition, everybody wants to get the project in their county so they can get taxes, money for schools, all that kind of stuff but while there is competition, because Toyota had located here and Yokahama was a Japanese company, we asked for and received help from CDF on Yokahama recruiting project,” said Joe Max Higgins Jr., of Golden Triangle LINK.
While the meeting provides a lot of information, businesspeople say it is a good way to keep up with how things are progressing throughout the region.
“Annual meetings like this give us a good overview of where we are, what our opportunities are, where we can improve, how we compare to other areas,” said B.B. Hosch of Renasant Bank.
Overall, speakers at the State of the Region presented an optimistic outlook. Attention to detail when it comes to education and lawmakers who are considered business friendly are other factors that are helping Northeast Mississippi as the area is finally coming out of the national recession.