A friend of mine is conducting a research project focused on identifying the long-term implications for higher education that have emerged as a result of the pandemic.
Holy smokes! The implications are clear and they are powerful! Virtually all we do has been impacted by Covid-19 and we have had to reconsider everything from business office processes to recruiting to, of course, classroom instruction.
It’s been daunting, but we are just like everyone else in that we have an important role to serve in our community and my team of committed faculty and staff members care deeply about fulfilling our mission on a daily basis.
The pandemic might have changed elements of how we work, but it hasn’t changed why. Our mission is clear and our commitment to that mission has been solidified. We know what we do, who we are, and embrace our role as community change agents.
Another organization in our community walks on similar ground.
The East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, EMBDC for short, is similarly committed to changing our community for the better and has worked tirelessly through the pandemic to continue the work of supporting current business and industry while marketing opportunities for new companies and employers to find a home in this part of our state. Let me be clear, that work isn’t easy.
In fact, if there’s one thing I’ve learned through the years, economic development is hard work, requires a unified and focused community, and sometimes takes years to recruit a single employer. Most industries looking to relocate, or build make their decisions based, as I say, on math. Where is the community located? What is their available workforce? How can we train our employees? What incentives are provided to help us relocate, get set up, and sustain our operation? Before an economic developer even gets a chance to have a conversation, most industries know all the answers to the questions before they are even asked! The process is like putting together a large puzzle. Every piece of our community is important and helps to construct a big picture that, before we even know they’re looking, gets us a shot at important jobs that can transform people and families.
At Meridian Community College we are proud members of the EMBDC and are pleased to be a part of the process associated with sustaining and recruiting business and industry in Meridian and Lauderdale County. One important piece of that puzzle is higher education and training. If you ever wonder, the number of citizens in a community who have diplomas, degrees, and certificates matters. Potential industries look at the various levels of educational attainment in an area and will either include or exclude a community based on the number of people who take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them. Completing your degree or certificate or getting your diploma matters in a big way.
Also, cooperation matters. I’m thankful for our relationships with Meridian Public Schools, Lauderdale County Schools, MSU-Meridian, and the various private institutions who serve our region. Our partnerships are important, and they are helping us think big about what’s next for our community.
We are all committed to the work of economic development through the EMBDC and take our role very seriously. When a potential industry visits town, we are there, and we speak with one voice regarding our challenges, opportunities, and commitments. We are proud to represent Meridian and Lauderdale County and believe we have a lot to share and are “invested together” as we move forward.
The EMBDC is the vessel that allows for us to think together, focus our goals on a common good, and rally around a vision that raises the expectation for all of us. We are thankful for the EMBDC and believe that working together will yield results for Meridian, Lauderdale County, and east Mississippi.
For us to do and be all we can, we need to work as one community with a united purpose and goal.
I encourage you to invest your time, resources, and support in the EMBDC.
Thomas M. Huebner, Jr., Ph.D. is president of Meridian Community College.