Thursday, September 10, 2009
Officials focus on WIN Center
By SUE WATSON
Twenty individuals gathered last week at Annie’s Restaurant to get the facts on what it takes to establish a WIN Job Center locally and find out if the citizens of Marshall and Benton counties want to work to establish one.
Present at the meeting were representatives of both counties, members of the local delegation and officials from towns and city governments.
Senator Bill Stone, Representative Kelvin Buck, Rust College officials, and Bill Renick with Three Rivers Planning and Development District took the lead in organizing the meeting, which Stone said was put together on short notice.
Renick, formerly the executive director of Marshall County Industrial Development Authority, attempted to make the facts clear to all.
“We have been beating this horse around for some time now,” he said. “There is some misunderstanding about how this works. The tax millage counties assess on behalf of the community colleges has nothing to do with the operation of a WIN Job Center. These are two different pots of money.”
His second point was that e-WIN Centers are operated on 100 percent voluntary labor and facilities. The state never has attached any funds to operating an e-WIN program, he said.
“They are not funded at all and we don’t want anyone to have the impression the state awarded something that had no money. It never intended to fund it,” Renick said.
There are under a dozen e-WIN centers run by volunteers in Mississippi, he said. The volunteers are called ambassadors and the program is operated in churches or libraries, he said.
Renick said the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) made the decision several years ago to close part-time WIN Job Center offices and create large, one-stop WIN Job Centers that offer a variety of services. The decision to consolidate was based on money, even though Marshall County was opposed to closing the center in Holly Springs, he said.
“The old temporary WIN Job Center was set up to fail in the beginning with underfunding,” he said. “Benton County never had a WIN Center.”
He said the area deserves a WIN Job Center which would be operated through the community college like the centers in Oxford, Senatobia and Southaven (funded mainly by MDES with Northwest Community College as a partner).
The WIN centers in the 27-county area served by Three Rivers Planning and Development District is funded by federal dollars, he said, adding that federal funding has declined.
He suggested that leaders in Marshall and Benton decide if a full-service WIN Center is wanted and if so, find a way to partner to fund it.
“We now know that the Building and Development Corporation is a non-profit and operated mostly by volunteers,” he said. “Even if we had funds, we can’t fund WIN through a non-profit like BDC. Under the present structure, the WIN Center would have to be operated by Northwest Community College.
“In Jackson, they don’t view us as being left out. They see WIN in Oxford and Senatobia here.”
Renick said the entire purpose of the meeting is to see if local governments want a WIN Center enough to partner to fund it. Local governments will have to decide what they can provide and what they will invest dollars in, he said.
If a local partnership is formed, a formula would be devised to determine how much money each government would provide to the pool with Marshall County paying the biggest percentage, followed by Benton County and the city of Holly Springs, he said. He said a local and private bill would likely be required in order for local government to channel funds into a non-profit to operate a jobs training center.
Residents can call a toll-free number to apply for unemployment but, must go to a job center to look for jobs or to get training under the current WIN Job Center structure.
Other things are happening at WIN Centers such as adult basic education, GED training, resume preparation and skills training.
Partnerships in some locales are being created to provide services. In Tippah County, a bank puts up $100 for the WIN center every time a person gets a GED, he said.
Houston and Chickasaw County contribute $100,000 each to building a new WIN Center that will be operated by Itawamba Community College. And the model is also being developed in Kosciusko, he said.
Renick said the state of the economy is causing people to take advantage of jobs skills training and placement.
And industry and business prospects are more likely to move to an area that has a WIN Job Center, he said.
“The question is can we partner and crawl,” Renick said.
Buck said he met with U.S. Representative Travis Childers in Ashland recently to discuss double-digit unemployment in Marshall (13.2 percent) and Benton (12.5) percent) counties and the opportunity to create partnerships.
The areas that have WIN Centers are the ones progressing and attracting industries, he said.
Renick said Tupelo has bought the old Lane Furniture Building to convert into a one-stop service. Three Rivers is helping with their proposal as well as the one in Kosciusko, he said.
“We can do that same kind of thing here, but they started at a crawl,” he said.
“Some will say e-WIN is nothing more than a website - anybody can go there,” said Marshall County Supervisor George Zinn III.
“E-WIN cannot touch what a full-blown WIN can do,” said Renick.
IDA executive director Bill Mobley said the issue is how to fund it.
“It all boils down to money,” he said.
“You’ve got to be able to show partnership and self help,” said Renick.
Buck said counties have received millions from state sources to do all kinds of things and the state needs counties to put some money on the table as well.
“We need to organize and do it or stop meeting,” he said. “The PUL (Pontotoc Union Lee) Alliance did it. We have to do it to compete.”
Renick said if the counties establish a partnership, it will be successful and other things will be successful as well.
“Anything we ever did merge on has been a success,” said Ricky Pipkin, president of the Benton County board.
Buck suggested the local governments set aside some dollars in contingency funds in the new fiscal year budget for the partnership.
Stone urged leaders to seek to put some money somewhere in the new budget and put forth a resolution.
“The place to put it is in capital outlay or economic development,” Pipkin said. “If you don’t spend it, it goes back into the general fund.”
“Everybody in the room agrees we need a WIN Job Center,” Stone said. “Are we committed? Even if it is just a resolution, we want to cooperate on this. It would be a great start. The next step is to discuss this with the boards (of governments).”
News: (662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions, comments, corrections: email@example.com
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page