WAEM MAYORS’ REGIONAL SUMMIT

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“Live At 5″ Video – WTOK
“Newscenter 11″ Video – WTOK
Governors Talk Realism, Opportunity, and Regionalism Video
Mayors’ Regional Summit Story – The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN, Miss. – Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Alabama Robert Bentley joined other leaders November 9, 2011, for a bi-state summit on strategies that would help West Alabama and East Mississippi address challenges. Hosted by 20 mayors from the region, over 300 leaders from state and local government, economic development organizations, business, and education attended the West Alabama-East Mississippi Mayors’ Regional Summit.

 

The emphasis was on working together to achieve success.

 

“The Toyota plant in Tupelo is a perfect example of regionalism,” said Bill Crawford, president of The Montgomery Institute, which organized the summit for the mayors. The Walmart Foundation sponsored the summit.

 

“We need to work together to move this region forward,” said Chief Phyliss Anderson of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. “When that happens it’s a win-win for all.”

 

Both governors stressed the importance of working together to generate jobs. Both that energy, aerospace and automotive industries are important targets for development.

 

“We anticipate that KiOR, within the next six years, will build a plant near Meridian, because there’s a tremendous amount of timber here,” said Barbour. KiOR is making a $1 billion, 7-year investment in Mississippi, to make bio-fuel from wood. Barbour said this will create about three hundred new jobs in east Mississippi.

 

Bentley said a priority focus of his administration will be economic and infrastructure development in West Alabama. He said he is pursuing major highway program. We’re talking about between $1-2 billion,” he said. “That’s major and we have not finalized that. We’re just working on that right now.”

 

Blake Wilson, president of the Mississippi Economic Council, and Seth Hammett, chairman of the Alabama Economic Development Alliance, told attendees about “Blueprint Mississippi” and “Accelerate Alabama.” Both are statewide strategic planning programs aimed at improving state economies.

 

Mariia Zimmerman, deputy director of the HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, discussed changing conditions in Washington and opportunities available to the region.

 

Mississippi Community College Board director Dr. Eric Clark and Alabama Industrial Training manager of community outreach services Rep. Pebblin Warren discussed workforce education needs and resources.

 

Congressman Gregg Harper wrapped up the session with a focus on budget challenges in Washington.

 

Barbour thinks the job outlook for the region is good.

 

“You’ve got so much automobile manufacturing nearby at Canton, at Tupelo, at Tuscaloosa, at Anniston, at Montgomery,” he said. “So, there’s no question that West Alabama and East Mississippi will get chances to participate.”

 

The summit marked the fourth bi-state summit in a decade sponsored by The Montgomery Institute.

Click to view a PDF version of the agenda.

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