Communiversities Like CMTE Making a Difference

GOLDEN TRIANGLE, MS – Courtesy of The Atlantic

The Golden Triangle of Mississippi — the ambitiously industrializing northeastern region including Columbus, West Point, and Starkville — is serving as an example to other areas on how to do things right. Among the many ambitious projects in of the area is the soon-to-open Center for Manufacturing Technology Excellence, or CMTE, out by the GTR Airport – aka “Communiversity.”

The Mississippi Communiversity is the culmination of multiple counties and government bodies all working together in order to produce and maintain a college-level educational campus that focuses on credit-based industrial know-how, including training for local college students to help them fill the ever-increasing list of jobs created by local industry.

Among others, the minds behind the project include: East Mississippi Community College (EMCC) just outside of Columbus; Starkville’s MS State U; area high schools; county, state, and federal government; the GTR LINK; private businesses with factories in the GTR Region, as well as a crowd of local individuals, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and more.

In the new Communiversity, a helicopter, for training in the aerospace program. An Airbus subsidiary builds helicopters for the North American market in a nearby factory. (Courtesy of East Mississippi Community College)

Working together, these organizations arranged for funding to the tune of over $42.5 million for the campus, much of which came from county & state bonds, as well as funding from the federal Appalachian Regional Commission.

EMCC vice president for workforce and community development, Raj Shaunak, commented that, over the past 15 years, EMCC has trained about 25,000 people — “and about 12,000 of them are currently employed in advanced manufacturing in the Golden Triangle area . . .” at companies such as Yokohama and Steel Dynamics.

“I think many of us are worried that the American economy is doing half of its job,” Jan Rivkin, of the Harvard Business School, said after an HBS team visited the Communiversity site in the fall of 2017. He added: “[The economy] is benefitting large companies and those who work for and invest in them, but it is not supporting working middle-class Americans. Rural communities are really struggling.

Yet here in the Golden Triangle, we see something very different going on: a community that is coming together to create broadly shared prosperity and great manufacturing jobs. We came here to learn. We came here to see what is going on that is special, and to figure out what we might apply to other settings in other communities.”

A mural in the about-to-be-opened Communiversity, earlier this month
(James Fallows – The Atlantic)

Finally, Shaunak had this to say: “This is a way we can give people in a distressed area new family-sustaining opportunities. . .This is a way to help them realize their American dream.”

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