By STEVEN NALLEY
Blueprint Mississippi unveiled a set of nine goals and recommendations during a set of three briefings in Jackson, Tupelo and Biloxi Thursday for state leaders to achieve and advance economic welfare for the state.
Blueprint Mississippi is a statewide strategic initiative to increase Mississippi’s economic and educational opportunities, patterned after an initiative with the same name and focus which took place in 2004. Launched in January 2011, it is a public-private partnership between the Mississippi Economic Council, Momentum Mississippi and the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development.
Scott Waller, senior vice president for public affairs with MEC, attended the Jackson and Tupelo briefings and said they both generated good response.
“We’ve had great crowds at both of the two meetings we held today,” Waller said. “At the end of the meeting, we asked them to rank in order their top three goals. It was obvious that education and work force were the top categories. Obviously, those two goals are thoroughly intertwined.”
The next step, Waller said, is to determine which of the many leaders who have participated in Blueprint Mississippi will be responsible for meeting which goals.
Waller said a Blueprint Mississippi roadshow will tour the state to give more leaders the chance to give Blueprint Mississippi feedback on the goals before it issues its final report on Jan. 5, 2012.
“The meetings will beheld in November and December,” Waller said. “The cities and dates will be announced soon, probably within the next couple of weeks.”
The full list of goals and recommendations was also posted to Blueprint Mississippi’s website at http://www.msmec.com/index.php/activities/blueprint-mississippi . Goals include improved coordination among economic leaders, support of the state’s creative economy, cultivating racial reconciliation, promoting health care as an economic driver and building up the state’s economy, financial capital, education, workforce, health care and infrastructure. Also posted with the list is a letter from Blueprint Mississippi Chairperson Hank Bounds.
“In the next three months, Blueprint Mississippi leaders will develop action steps for executing the goals and recommendations, while also assigning responsibility to those who bring the necessary resources to the table and agree to drive the process,” Bounds said. “We will also compile the most compelling aspects of our research into an easy-to-access online presentation aimed at telling the Mississippi story and outlining the work that is ahead.”
Bounds also said the goals and recommendations were deliberately released before the November election to set politicians’ agendas. Waller said the goal was not to change the election climate in any way.
“It was to make people aware what the goals of the plan was and give the candidates an opportunity to review that,” Waller said. “Going back to 2004, the Blueprint Mississippi goals were given to the governor after he was elected, and fortunately, the governor chose to act on areas we presented. A lot of things listed in Blueprint Mississippi became part of the current administration’s plan of action, and as a result, we have seen some really good things happen.”
Blake Wilson, president and CEO of MEC, said the Blueprint Mississippi process has highlighted progress in economic development, education and workforce training in Mississippi.
“There also is a renewed pride in Mississippians from all regions,” Wilson said. “It has been a very comprehensive process, which has included input from thousands of leaders throughout the state. By having such a broad range of ideas, it has allowed for the development of goals and recommendations that can truly move Mississippi forward.”