The initial “region” targeted by TMI was eight counties in and around Meridian plus the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (Lauderdale, Clarke, Jasper, Newton, Neshoba, and Kemper Counties in Mississippi; and Sumter and Choctaw Counties in Alabama).  Then, in November 2001, when TMI convened its first regional “summit,” co-sponsored by The Phil Hardin Foundation and the Southern Rural Development Center, the Commission on the Future of East Mississippi and West Alabama was born.  The region encompassed by the Commission expanded TMI’s region of work from the original eight counties to 16 counties – 10 in eastern Mississippi and six in western Alabama, plus the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.  The additional counties were:  Noxubee, Winston, Leake, and Scott in Mississippi; and Greene, Hale, Perry, and Marengo in western Alabama.

West Alabama/East Mississippi

In December 2005, TMI and regional partners developed and submitted a competitive grant to the U.S. Department of Labor to participate in its innovative Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development demonstration program.  With support from Mississippi Governer Haley Barbour and Alabama Governor Bob Riley, this grant gained approval and was awarded in late January 2006.  The “region” encompassed by the WIRED proposal included 37 counties, 19 in eastern Mississippi and 18 in Western Alabama plus the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.  The additional counties were:  Clay, Oktibbeha, Lowndes, Smith, Covington, Jones, Wayne, Perry, and Greene in eastern Mississippi; and Marion, Lamar, Fayette, Walker, Pickens, Tuscaloosa, Lowndes, Dallas, Wilcox, Clarke, Monroe, and Conecuh in western Alabama.   Today this initiative is known as the WAEM (West Alabama – East Mississippi) Regional Initiative.