Last Thursday was both a day of celebration and a call to arms for the future.
The State of the Region meeting highlighted the exceptional growth and impact of the CREATE Foundation, the investments being made in Northeast Mississippi and the potential for future success.
It was also the first major in-person event, which has ballooned in size over the years, hosted by CREATE since the pandemic. Last year’s event was held virtually, but people returned in large numbers, showing the commitment to CREATE’s mission and cooperation across the 17-county region.
CREATE President Mike Clayborne highlighted the strength of the Foundation through the growth in assets, funds and investments over the past 49 years. In doing so, he pointed to an inflection point approximately 25 years ago that led to significant growth — the creation of the Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi. Clayborne pointed to it as the catalyst for more, truer regional cooperation.
Hosted by the CREATE Foundation’s Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi, this year’s State of the Region meeting featured Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.
While highlighting legislative successes from the past year, Hosemann also talked about the billions of dollars coming to the state and local governments from the American Rescue Plan. He said such federal funding is likely never to be seen again, so he is encouraging local leaders to use it to fund projects that can lead to “generational changes.”
Hosemann and Presley both talked about expanding broadband access, which could make Northeast Mississippi the largest connected rural area in America — certainly a generational change.
But all three — Clayborne, Hosemann and Presley — warned that there is much work to do. There are challenges facing the region. Pointing to recent Census data which revealed Mississippi as one of only a handful of states to lose residents over the past decade, Clayborne said 12 of the 17 Northeast Mississippi counties lost population.
Clayborne rightfully pointed out that a region is only as strong as it’s communities. And all three rightfully said that local communities often must lead in addressing the challenges they face.
With the federal assistance and the regional support that exists, local communities throughout Northeast Mississippi should heed the calls that were sounded Thursday: Look at where we are, look at where we need to go and invest in projects that can bring about generational changes. By doing so, the state of the region can remain strong for generations to come.
(Tupelo) Daily Journal, June 11