A capacity and enthusiastic crowd greeted Dr. Phil Sutphin, president of East Central Community College and chairman of The Commission on the Future of East Mississippi and West Alabama, sponsors of the event at Mississippi State University, Meridian campus.
"This is an historic occasion," said Sutphin. "It's an occasion where we have recognized that the future of each of us is dependent on the future of all of us."
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove was the morning's featured speaker. His emphasis was education.
"Good schools attract good jobs and good jobs produce good communities," said Musgrove. "You have my full support in making sure that we utilize every resource to bring jobs to east central Mississippi and west Alabama because we absolutely believe it's in our best interest that you continue to grow as well. And we look forward to working with you to make that happen."
Cong. Chip Pickering echoed the governor's theme of working together.
"We are pooling our resources. We're not competing, we're cooperating," said Pickering. "It is bipartisan. It is biracial through every segment of the community and we are in consensus. And when we find that kind of consensus, I can tell you as a political leader it is powerful," said Pickering.
Dr. Malcolm Portera, chancellor of the University of Alabama system, said the key to the future of east Mississippi and west Alabama is education.
"The Golden Rule in this new century is real, real simple. It's three words. Learn or perish. Learn or perish," said Portera.
There was no sugar coating at the meeting. The theme was, "We've fallen behind other areas. Now we have to find a way to catch up."