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  • Bob Arnold

March meet for new consortium

March Meet for new Consortium
Southwest Mississippi Community College President Steven Bishop (left) and Co-Lin President Jane Hulon Sims (right) discuss economic development with Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves.

Co-Lin and Southwest Mississippi Community College (SMCC) are planning to bring together economic development leaders throughout Southwest Mississippi sometime next month to begin partnering on planning and implementing strategies to grow the region's economy and advance overall community development.

Co-Lin President Dr. Jane Hulon Sims announced the initiative at the culmination of an economic development summit hosted by her college and SMCC at the Thames Center on the Co-Lin campus in October. Resurgence of COVID-19, however, slowed the organizing process of consortium.

Co-Lin's Kenny Goza, who is spearheading the college's involvement in the consortium, says the colleges will invite 20 to 30 local economic developers, business and community leaders and elected officials from Adams, Amite, Copiah, Franklin, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lincoln, Pike, Simpson, Walthall and Wilkinson Counties to an initial consortium organizing meeting and start strategic planning around a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) analysis.

"In Southwest Mississippi, we need to cultivate a mindset that what is good for one is good for all -- that it's not about one of us, but all of us," Goza says. He points out that the most effective community and economic development is happening regionally on the Gulf Coast, in the Hinds-Madison Counties area, around DeSoto County and in the Golden Triangle area around Tupelo.

"The idea is that there is strength in numbers and we can leverage an 11-county voice to recruit new business, support business expansion and create jobs," says Goza. "Perhaps participants can identify a super site and jointly market it to businesses that will contribute to the economy of all 11 counties." Goza points to the Golden Triangle-Tupelo model of cooperative community development which was launched 30 years ago and created a foundation.

"State agencies are excited about what is happening in Southwest Mississippi, particularly two community colleges working together to facilitate economic and community development in an 11-county region," Goza says.

In announcing the Co-Lin's partnership with SMCC and its President Steven Bishop, Hulon Sims declared that "it was time to act" and go beyond talk. "If not now, when?" she implored.

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