MEC Seeks to Improve State’s Reputation

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

MEC recently held their annual luncheon at Lion Hills. At the meeting, CEO and President Scott Waller asked the many business professionals and community leaders in attendance about how they felt Mississippi is perceived by both locals and by outsiders. More than half of them had negative views on the state themselves, and the general consensus was that most people from other states feel the same way. His goal is to help to identify the most important of our issues and bring them to local and state leaders so that they may hopefully be addressed on a large scale: “When we think about what our state is, where we’re going, how do we change that image?” he said. “How do we make sure that we’re not talking about the negative, but instead figuring out a way to deal with the negative — because we can’t walk away from it — but then talk about the good things that are happening that can help change the dynamic of the conversation?”

Mississippi Economic Council President and CEO Scott Waller speaks with Kyle Jordan of Starkville – Isabelle Altman, Dispatch Staff

He pointed out that the state has been improving gradually in recent years: Our graduation rate is a bit above the national average (85% as compared to 84.6%), and that our national ranking has improved, as well: “In the latest Newsweek poll on education, Mississippi ranked 46th,” he said. “Think about that for just a second: 46. Maybe that’s not a great number, but when you’ve always been either 50 or 51 (including) D.C., that’s a pretty big improvement. … There’s something happening in (education) that’s allowed us to move up. We’re 46th today. Our next goal should be 44. Then 42. That’s when you start to see the needle move, that we’re actually making real progress.”

Most attendees agreed that our universities and community colleges are doing well in their mission to prepare students for the workforce: “Particularly in a place like Columbus that has not only strong community colleges but a strong four-year university right here, and you’re fairly close to another, that you see the value of what our universities bring to the table and what our community colleges bring to the table in terms of preparing our workforce,” he said. However, their view on our K-12 educational system was not nearly as optimistic, with 2/3 of them saying that pre-college education is inadequate in the state.

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