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Job training — A win for Southwest Mississippi!

The beginning of our new administration has been busy! We are now very close to adopting a balanced 2020-21 City Budget, in addition to adopting a new health insurance plan for our city employees, expected to save as much as $300,000, or more.

Simultaneous to these efforts, we have been working on a key component of The Natchez Renewal — cleaning up the old tire plant in order to create a job training center.

The reason I have keyed in on the tire plant as the location for this facility is that it just makes sense.

Rather than continue paying out $90,000 in taxpayer money every year keeping this city-owned hazard secure, why not seek state and federal funds to clean it up and re-purpose it?

Granted this will be a lengthy process, but we have already started. We have applied for a Brownfields Grant, and we know that other funds are out there for projects like this.

For example, it was just reported that over the past four years, Mississippi has only used $4.7 million of $50 million dedicated to workforce training in our state. We need to go after our share.

I have been pleased with the support we are receiving for this project. At Co-Lin, for example, funding and space for existing programs are limited — they need this.

A lack of funding also plagues the WIN Jobs Center, and I am told that opportunities are limited within the Natchez/Adams County School System, although they are indeed doing great things at the Fallin Center.

A large job training center would be a win for Southwest Mississippi. In our region, college is not for everyone.

A recent study has shown that fewer than 25% of college students are graduating. Of those who do, many are taking low-paying jobs that can hardly pay back their college loans.

On the contrary, the completion rates of job training programs are very high. And the average job training graduate makes more than the average college graduate, ie: electricians, welders, plumbers, diesel mechanics, commercial drivers, medical technicians, cosmetologists, the list goes on and on…

I am excited to consider how significant it would be to see this eyesore of an old tire plant, a fiscal drain on the city, transformed into a jobs center with great purpose! And let’s not forget the Civil Rights history attached to the tire plant – a monument will be needed to commemorate those tragic events of our past that resulted in greater freedoms for our present.

Let me conclude by saying that my overall goal is job training for our region — period. There is a remote possibility that other purposes may be found for the tire plant, involving private investment and potentially a new employer.

If indeed this happens, please know that I would be welcome to other ideas at other locations. I just know we need more job training for Natchez/Adams County and for Southwest Mississippi.

Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is the mayor of Natchez.

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