Education and economy intertwined

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, October 2, 2011

The links between the two “E” words,”education” and the “economy,” are many.

    Those interweavings were strongly evident at Tuesday’s quarterlybreakfast of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.Held to a full house at Western Sizzlin’, the meeting featuredpresentations from the city and county public school districts,Brookhaven Academy, Mississippi School of the Arts andCopiah-Lincoln Community College.

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    Chamber executive vice president Cliff Brumfield cited theimportant role the schools play in what he does at the chamber.”What’s happening in these institutions shapes what’s going on ineconomic development,” he said.

    Brumfield’s right. Strong schools are high on the shopping listwhen potential industries go looking for development sites. Peoplewant to live and work in places where their children can get a goodeducation. Industries want to locate where they can get goodworkers. Industries also want their employees to have access tohigher education and refresher training.

    The Columbus-Starkville-West Point Golden Triangle region has beensnapping up new industries lately, and the fact that the area canclaim not just one, but two state universities, plus a communitycollege, is not an insignificant factor in the growth spurt.

    Brookhaven and Lincoln County are no slouches in the higher ed areathough – we have Co-Lin just across the county line, and severalcolleges and two universities are only a short drive away.

    Education also is a spur to economic development by and of itself,as construction projects are under way at multiple educationalinstitutions across the area.

    MSA has two big renovation programs going, one involving ElizabethCottage and the other at Enochs Hall. These projects represent aninvestment of thousands of dollars in Brookhaven and complement thenew downtown hotel/apartment development that Johnny Lynch hasunder way.

    As a side note, MSA executive director Suzanne Hirsch mentionedTuesday that four students still need host families, so interestedparents are encouraged to apply. This year’s student bodyrepresents 85 percent of Mississippi, Hirsch noted.

    Co-Lin also is making improvements to its campus, with a $3-millionhonors men’s dormitory in progress and new bleachers recently addedto the stadium, said Dr. Jane Hulon, Co-Lin vice president ofinstructional services.

    Brookhaven Academy is planning a fundraising project to build a newcreative arts building, Valerie Oglesby, BA director ofdevelopment, told the chamber group.

    Speaking last on the program, Terry Brister, county superintendentof education, pointed out that Lincoln County is the largest schooldistrict in Southwest Mississippi. With four principals and about600 employees, the school district is like a good-sized industry inits own right.

    Brister also said the county schools’ finances are strong enoughthat they don’t have to do bond issues for buildings – they justwrite a check. Not many businesses could do that these days.

    In yet another connection between education and the economy,Brister placed the responsibility for improvement on both frontsfirmly on the shoulders of parents.

    Too many parents expect the educators to raise their children,according to Brister. “If parents would take over, dropoutprevention would be a thing of the past,” he said, adding, “Theeconomy’s not going to get better until it happens.”

    And that brings us full circle.

    General Manager Rachel Eide can be reached at The DAILY LEADERAT 601-833-6961 ext. 153; by e-mail at; orvia mail at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0551.