Supervisors consider workforce development coalition

Published 8:16 pm Monday, October 4, 2021

NATCHEZ — Natchez Inc.’s Executive Director Chandler Russ and Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson teamed up Monday to discuss a united workforce development effort with the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

“One of the things we think is of vital importance here, and something that could cause a bottleneck in growth potential, is not having a solid, trained workforce,” Russ told supervisors during their meeting.

Gibson wants the city, county and Natchez Adams School District to create and operate a community workforce development center, and he said the first step to making that a reality is hiring a director to get the effort started.

“Think about this project as a big apple. Today, we are asking you to take the first bite,” he told supervisors.

“As we grow, we have a lot of people excited about locating here,” Gibson said. “But when they find it difficult to hire people they need, they will become discouraged … We need someone to guide the ship and get this going.”

Gibson said a number of different organizations, including Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Alcorn State University and the Fallin Career and Technology Center operated by Natchez Adams Schools, all offer some form of job training, but nothing comprehensive, which the community needs.

Gibson and a contingent from the city, county and school district recently toured a new, comprehensive jobs training center in Batesville. One of the first steps to getting that center off the ground was to hire a director to provide the needed leadership to bring the jobs training center to a reality.

District 2 Supervisor Kevin Wilson asked if Gibson has identified a person to fill that role in Natchez. He has, Gibson said, and named Tawana Williams, who has worked in jobs training at Co-Lin Natchez and the WIN Jobs Center. She has a master’s degree and is also a U.S. Army veteran, he said.

“She has the ability to work with others, including businesses and prospective workers,” he said. “Williams has great ties to this community,” as well as successful experience in writing grants and creating coalitions.”

Gibson said Williams would work under the auspices of Natchez Inc. and would have an office at Natchez Inc. She would be paid a salary of $65,000 per year with benefits.

“That would be about $33,000 from each group for the first year if we split it three ways,” he said.

Gibson said the city’s board of aldermen has voted to pursue an interlocal agreement as phase one of the workforce development project.

District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray said he is in favor of a workforce development center, but “I would like it better if we had all parties at the table.”

Gibson agreed, and said he would work to set up such a meeting. He said he would like for each group to make a decision and commitment by the end of this month.