Worries need to create solutions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 15, 2007

What worries Mississippi business leaders the most? The sub-prime mortgage crisis? A growing trade deficit? Rising oil costs? Increased world competition?

Nope. It’s nothing nearly that fancy sounding.

Mississippi businesses are worried about finding quality workers. That fact was revealed in a recent statewide survey produced by the Mississippi Economic Council, which touts itself as the state chamber of commerce.

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“If there was ever an argument for investing in education and workforce development, this is it,” MEC President Blake Wilson told a group of Natchez area leaders on Tuesday.

Wilson is correct. And, when the Legislature convenes again in January, lawmakers need to take action to resolve the biggest worry facing state businesses.

Unfortunately, the “fix” isn’t one that can be made overnight. Improving education and workforce training will take time.

But we can start now.

We need to — once and for all — fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The state has given lip service to this, but seems to only manage to fund it when it’s convenient for them.

In addition, lawmakers need to restore funding for building programs that would help aid districts such as the Natchez-Adams one to build new schools.

And, finally, we must continue to push for growth of funding at the community and junior college level. Schools such as Copiah-Lincoln Community College are on the forefront of workforce training programs. Typically these schools are more nimble in getting their resources aligned quickly to help businesses with training their next work force. Lawmakers should recognize this and dedicate resources here.

With a serious focus on education and work force development, perhaps the state’s businesses can soon get back to the business of worrying about how to make more money and continue to fuel the state’s economy.