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Our View: A bold proposal




On Wednesday, at the Golden Triangle Development LINK's quarterly meeting, plans for the construction of a building currently called the Communiversity were revealed. The building, which will be located just east of PACCAR, will serve as a workforce training facility and a showcase of regional products. The showroom is meant to inspire people to enter the workforce and to have pride in the products the Golden Triangle manufactures. The third floor of the Pryor & Morrow-designed building will be office rental space. 


Throughout next month, the LINK will be approaching Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties, requesting financial assistance for the $38 million facility. Lowndes will be asked for $10 million, Oktibbeha $2.5 million and Clay $1 million. 


Preempting questions about the discrepancy in the amount requested from each county, LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected."  


The balance of the funding is expected to come from state and federal sources, plus some private financing. 


The building is the result of a study recently conducted by William Fruth and independent thinking by Dr. Mac Portera. Fruth is the president of POLICOM, a Florida-based economic research firm, and Portera is a former president of Mississippi State University who has been instrumental in luring multiple major manufacturers to Mississippi and Alabama. Both men acknowledge Lowndes County's phenomenal economic development growth but caution that a lack of an adequate workforce may prohibit future growth. 


We can safely agree with Fruth and Portera that we must prepare our citizens for these jobs. As we have said on this page previously, the LINK is doing its job by bringing the jobs; we need to rise to the challenge of filling them. In this competitive age, companies can find job-seekers in any corner of the country. Properly trained job-seekers are a different story, and represent a real opportunity for our communities to gain a competitive edge. 


Yokohama, which plans to bring up to 2,000 jobs to West Point between now and 2023, will require at least a silver score on the WorkKeys ACT test for every position at their campus. 


East Mississippi Community College, which will oversee workforce training at the Communiversity, offers training for WorkKeys. They also offer a basic manufacturing skills course to further prepare locals for advanced manufacturing jobs both locally and nationally. 


We applaud EMCC and the LINK for working so closely together on this.  


We would love to see workforce training extended to area high schools, giving students a clear path to employment. We would also love to see our area churches and community centers promoting the opportunities available with a little training. 


When prompted yesterday, Dr. Raj Shaunak, vice president for Workforce and Community Service at EMCC, suggested manufacturing employees in the Golden Triangle can expect positions paying between $30,000 and $50,000 per year. Eighty percent of manufacturing positions require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. 


EMCC is perfectly positioned to feed our citizens into these jobs. 


Let's do what we can to motivate those who have been chronically unemployed to seek training, become employed and make a meaningful contribution to our continued growth. 


We suspect the benefits the Golden Triangle will reap from the Communiversity will more than justify the required $13.5 million local investment.



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