Thursday, May 3, 2012
Renick pumps education
By SUE WATSON
No stranger to Marshall County, Bill Renick with Three Rivers Planning and Development District was recently keynote speaker at the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon.
He spoke of the growth potential in the county and the importance of educating a workforce. His years of service for the area includes alderman and mayor in Ashland, state senator, chief of staff for two governors and then executive director of the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority.
“I spent a lot of time in Marshall County and Holly Springs and will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve as your senator, which led me to many other things,” he said. “Hopefully, I have been able to give back to the community that supported me.
“Education is a passion of mine,” he remarked, noting guests in the audience with Teach For America. “They are stepping out there where things have to be done. There has got to be a revolution in education, not only in Mississippi, but in America.”
Statistics show that 75 percent of Mississippi fourth grade students cannot read or do math on fourth grade level, he said. By eighth grade, 81 percent are not performing at grade level, he said.
“We are failing our own students,” Renick said. “We can trace our problems back to education in almost everything. We need to leave it (society) better than where it was when we got here.”
The area is in a prime location to attract business and jobs. Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park is bringing unprecedented dollars in construction to the county with some very big investments in the hundreds of millions coming, Renick predicted. He said that boom could come as early as this summer.
“The challenge we have in this area is to make sure progress in the park benefits people in Marshall County,” Renick said. “Nine years ago I was working in the governor’s office and was asked for $250,000 seed money to plan an automotive manufacturing megasite.”
The seed money helped develop a website to be used by the PUL Alliance – a website that would show the lay of the land. An area of gullies and land covered by kudzu became the location for the Toyota assembly plant in Blue Springs.
Renick said he is driving a 2012 Corolla that was assembled at the Mississippi plant, which will make about 200,000 Corollas a year.
“I predict in the next 60 to 90 days, we will hear of a $150 million investment going to Chickasaw Trails,” he said. “We need to make sure our people will be the ones to benefit. We’ve got to be prepared for what might come. The reality is that 25 percent of our high school graduates will go to college and 75 percent will go to work. A big percentage will not go into anything. It all begins with the education of young people and those who dropped out.”
Renick expressed hope that Teach For America would help close the learning gap between the well-to-do and the poor.
“We have to face these issues and do something about them” he said.
With the designation of Highway 78 as I-22, there will be many opportunities arriving in Mississippi.
“We must be prepared for these opportunities,” Renick said. “You, as leaders of this community, will have to decide where this community is going to go. It (opportunity) is not going to fall out of the sky. It takes action and planning. I believe the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train. It is a light of opportunity.”
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