Thursday, January 28, 2010
Citizens revisit job center
By SUE WATSON
Some citizens recently questioned the City of Holly Springs’ interest in a Workforce Investment Network (WIN) Job Center.
They appeared before the January 5 meeting of the board of aldermen to seek clarification on why the city has not offered to put up its share of the money for a partnership to create a Marshall/Benton county area workforce development center.
The matter of a partnership between local governments and other entities was first discussed by the local delegation and representatives with Northwest Community College and Three Rivers Planning and Development District last September just before budgets were due.
Rust College professor A.J. Stovall was first to question Mayor Andre’ DeBerry about the city’s lack of financial commitment to the proposed center, which would likely be located in Holly Springs, the largest municipality in the two counties.
“My puzzle is how what we do in Holly Springs is not effective in creating jobs,” Stovall said. “Fifty-one percent of African American male youth are unemployed. My question is why in Holly Springs with the need of training and work skills, why would elected officials here be against such opportunities for young people?”
DeBerry responded that the Marshall area had a double digit unemployment rate when the state pulled the part-time WIN Center away from Holly Springs and created large centers in Southaven and Oxford. He said the city had tried to get the Mississippi Department of Employment Services to stay in Holly Springs.
However, the city and Rust College have worked all along to keep a workforce training program alive with computer classes, forklift and welding classes and other training programs operating at the city’s Regional Technology Center, DeBerry said.
“So, we have been saying all along that we have instructed Northwest that we need a workforce center here and how is it going to be funded is what they do. The city does not have the wherewithal to sustain it,” DeBerry said.
He said since 2003, the city has tried to position itself to be a leader in workforce training from the perspective of technology training.
“So the city is behind the WIN Center?” asked Stovall.
“In every case to this point we have proved need and the next step is partnership,” said IT director Ken Robinson.
Edythe Taylor asked if the city is keeping statistics to show if those who are trained are finding jobs.
“Keep in mind we still have a depressed economy,” said DeBerry. “What we are doing is preparing people for opportunity.”
He cited a 10.4 percent unemployment rate with millions unemployed.
“We don’t have the job market but we can create the job opportunity if the jobs come to us,” DeBerry said.
Rev. Edward Moses asked the mayor why the city of Holly Springs made no monetary commitment for the WIN partnership after a startup budget was proposed by Northwest and Three Rivers Planning and Development District, following the initial meeting in September.
DeBerry said the city is a conduit for funds from agencies, not a source for funding of a WIN Center.
He alleged it was politics that got the large WIN Center at Southaven and in Oxford.
The city was there at the table last fall when the partnership was discussed, DeBerry said. The city was asked to come up with a line-item commitment in its budget, he said, while the county proposed offering free office space.
“The thing that really disappoints those of us who were there is the fact that state senator (Bill Stone) and city officials for all municipalities were there,” said Moses, “and they did not discuss where monies could not be given. We are trying to bring it back to the table.”
“Nobody is saying a WIN Center is not needed,” said DeBerry. “I said all along the city is committed to a WIN Center. Where’s the beef? Where’s the money? Show me the money. Nobody’s showing me the money. They want us to show them money.”
County supervisor George Zinn III agreed that MDES did pull their part-time office out of the city.
“But in the meantime, where can we step up and put something in place?” he said. “Then the state would have no option but to come in and take over financing.”
“We have no intention of our people suffering whether or not we have a WIN Center,” said DeBerry.
The community concern – seeking a resolution endorsing the concept of a WIN Center in Holly Springs – was brought forward in the board’s next meeting, January 19, by Moses. The board approved a resolution to request that the Mississippi Department of Employment Services do what it can to find funding for a center in the city.
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