By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
About 305 of the best and brightest minds in the state of Mississippi were on hand Thursday at the Mississippi State University's Riley Center in downtown Meridian to try and stem the flow of young talent that are leaving the state, taking their knowledge and intellect with them.
The summit, called "Rethink Mississippi: No Suits, No PowerPoints, No Bull," was organized by the Mississippi Young Professionals, a fast growing group of young people from across the state who are trying to create a network that will connect, develop, empower and retain young professionals in Mississippi through community involvement, professional development and social interaction.
Fredie Carmichael, MSYP chairman and Mississippi Development Authority regional development manager, said during opening ceremonies Thursday afternoon the best of Mississippi has been leaving the state to "fertilize" other states with their expertise, leaving Mississippi with dwindling numbers of young people in which to promote growth. He said one of the reasons so many young professionals leave the state for what they perceive to be greener pastures is the perception Mississippi has nothing to offer them.
"We are battling our own ideas of what our state has to offer," said Carmicheal. "But we are ready now to change that direction. Just the fact we have so many people here today under one roof is proof to me we can make the changes needed to keep more and more of our young people here."
MSYP hopes to show the best and brightest young people that Mississippi is worth a second look and realize the opportunities the state has to offer, while also using that momentum to recruit other young professionals to Mississippi.
MSYP’s 19-member board is comprised of business leaders in their 20s, 30s and 40s from each region of the state. One of those board members, Tray Hairston, who is also the associate counsel and policy advisor for Governor Phil Bryant, told the crowd the governor is as concerned about the outflow of talent as he is.
"We are at a crossroads in which in the coming years we will need more and more people who will be required to have advanced training and knowledge in order to work in rising industries and businesses," said Hairston. "We have the opportunity now, today, to make huge strides in producing and keeping our most intelligent young people here instead of going out of state."
Carlester Duan Walker thought about leaving the state and carrying his communication and internet expertise to other markets. In the end, the New Hebron native who now works as a regional broadband coordinator for MSU in Greenville decided to stay.
"This is my home," said Walker. "I'm concerned about the state and how it is doing. I see a lot of young people leave the state looking for higher pay and better opportunity. What they don't see is Mississippi has a great deal of room for growth. If they would just see that I think they would stay. Sometimes you can be too close to something and that makes it hard to see it clearly."
Ashley Neal decided to stay not only in her home state but in her hometown. Born and raised in Meridian, Neal is the director of sales for the Hilton Garden Inn. She said she believes Meridian and Mississippi is the place for her.
"Many of the people I graduated with, some are gone and some stayed," Neal said. "I have a lot of hope for the state and I want to be a part of it. That is why I'm interested in this summit. It is up to us, the young people, to set the standard."
Speakers at the two-day event include Governor Phil Bryant, Peavey Electronics Founder and Chief Executive Officer Hartley Peavey, creative instigator and speaker Dyana Valentine, Civil Rights leader Roscoe Jones, Sr., young business owner Keyes Kennard of Mobile Solutions and Paromita Mitra, Miss Mississippi USA 2013. Topics to be covered include: Post It to Facebook, Let’s Go to Work, Innovation Can Happen in Mississippi, Never Say Never and LinkedIn(to) It. The event will also include networking opportunities.
The summit winds up today.