Mississippi economic tour stops in Meridian

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Representatives from an organization that is known as the "Voice of Mississippi Business," have made a stop in Meridian. The Queen City marks the 14th stop for members of the Mississippi Economic Council. It's part of the group's 22 city, statewide tour. When it comes to recruiting businesses, the Chief Financial Officer for the MEC says there's been one key change.

Scott Waller says in the past the key factor that often determined whether a business or industry would locate in an area was incentives. However, he says that's no longer true.

"Site selectors will tell you, the number one thing that a company ask is, 'What's the workforce like in that state?'" says Waller. "It's all about do you have a skilled workforce that can go to work at the jobs that we would bring into the state?"

To ensure that Mississippi's workforce is prepared, the MEC has launched a Tech Master initiative. It started two years ago, and focuses on helping more students receive high skilled technical training.

"It's to prepare them for the jobs that are coming," says Waller. "These will be more technical skills jobs that will be here in Mississippi in the future."

According to Waller, these jobs will require skills that cover a number of fields such as those that involve electronics and welding.

"We need to, in many ways kind of shift the paradigm a little bit," says Waller. "Shift the thinking to the fact that those are the jobs that are really going to be high paying, long-term careers for our citizens here in Mississippi."

The MEC's goal is for at least 25% of high school graduates in Mississippi to be involved in the Tech Master program by the year 2019.

Also during Tuesday's tour stop, local business leaders who attended took a survey. The results reveal that 60% of the respondents say they would support a reasonable tax or fee increase that would be strictly used to improve the condition of roads and bridges throughout Mississippi.