Next Step Tour set for Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 20, 2010

NATCHEZ — Natchez has the resources needed to provide quality early childhood education, the Mississippi Economic Council claims.

MEC President Blake Wilson said community leaders just need to learn how to utilize these resources.

“Leaders have to focus on improving the resources that are on the ground,” Wilson said. “Then, when the economy improves, have a plan positioned to gain additional resources to support early childhood development.”

The MEC is hosting the Natchez portion of the Next Step Tour at the Natchez Convention Center from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“The purpose of the program is to show how important early childhood development is for improving learning capability,” Wilson said. “Having a strong program in place positions Natchez-Adams County for being a great place of opportunity.”

The project has both long- and short-term goals, Wilson said.

In the short-term, when a business moves in, one of the first things it looks for is a quality child care center, Wilson said.

Wilson said if you can develop children’s learning capability at an early age, they will be better positioned to do well in school.

“Twenty years down the road, the payout developed at an early age is significant as the child grows up,” Wilson said.

The program is free, and MEC only asks that those interested sign up at www.mec.ms because they are preparing handouts and refreshments.

Wilson, who is also the event’s emcee, recommended that anyone looking to be involved in leading early childhood development in Natchez-Adams County should attend.

Also speaking at the event will be Laurie Smith, executive director of Mississippi Building Blocks; Mike Petro, vice president of the Committee of Economic Development in Washington D.C.; Steve Williams, executive director of the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation; Steve Renfroe, public and government affairs manager of Chevron; and locally, Melissa Lewis Tenhet, project manager for the Mississippi Childcare Resource and Referral Network.

The tour will go through 10 cities starting March 22. W.K. Kellogg Foundation has partnered with the MEC to bring the cities this program for free.