School district, business partners plan strategy for career tech center

By the end of 2019, Lowndes County will have more $55 million in new, state-of-the art workforce training facilities.

The Lowndes County School District’s $11 million career tech center will begin classes in the fall semester while the $44 million Communiversity, under East Mississippi Community College’s workforce training umbrella, will open sometime next year at the Lowndes County Industrial Park.

On Thursday at the LCSD Career Tech Center on Lehmberg Road, small business owners and representatives from the LCSD and EMCC met to talk about how the broader community can use the new facilities to maximum effect, a meeting organized by Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Hosemann has been traveling the state to urge communities to work together to build the educated workforce that today’s employers need.

“An educated workforce is the answer to just about every problem we have,” Hosemann said after the two-hour meeting, which featured a round-table discussion with Hosemann, educators and small business owners. “Right now, we have low unemployment and that’s great, but what we need is a high participation rate. We have about 1.1 million people working now. If we can get that number to 1.3 million, everything works. Health care works. The (state) budget works. Infrastructure, repairing our roads and bridges, works. Everything.

“All of that depends on building an educated workforce,” he added. “There isn’t a tractor in the Delta that doesn’t have a real complicated platform on it. If you can’t run a computer, you can’t run a tractor. It’s the same with everything.”

Business partners

When the two facilities were proposed, much of the focus was on training for the jobs needed by big industry.

Missing from those early talks was how the facilities could help small businesses, observed Katie McCrary, whose family-owned business, McCrary Construction Services, employs about 35 workers.

To make sure the needs of small businesses were not neglected, McCrary organized a group of 17 area businesses to work with the LCSD. Her group has been meeting with LCSD Superintendent Lynn Wright to find ways for small business to be a part of what the career tech center has to offer.

McCrary was a part of Thursday’s round-table discussion.

“Our group employs close to 2,000 people,” she said. “We appreciate the large industries in our area, because a lot of us work with them. But we need employees, too.”

The need for job-ready employees at small businesses is no less critical than it is for large, high-tech industries, said Dale Nelson, owner of Triangle Insulation and Acoustic Inc. in Columbus.

“I’ve been in the construction business for 32 years,” Nelson said. “It used to be that when you needed workers, there were people looking for work everywhere. Now, you can’t find anybody. Contractors are poaching other contractors’ help to man their projects. It’s a common thing. That’s why we need to get the word out to the community to let them know how deep this really goes.”

Part of that effort, Nelson said, means changing the community’s perception of the new career tech facilities.

“Back in the day, there was shop class, and you went to shop class to get out of doing anything else,” Nelson said. “When I was in high school we had a perfectly good shop class, but we never touched a tool or a machine in there. We treated it like a study hall. I think that idea still persists. There are a lot of people in this community that see this as a big money pit. We need to address that. We need to get the word out.”

McCrary said that message needs to reach kids, too.

“We’ve got to make school trade classes cool again,” McCrary said. “I’m passionate about that. A lot of kids don’t know what they want to do. In working with some schools, I saw kids who were academically challenged and pegged as trouble-makers because they were never going to be able to sit down and perform in math and reading and English like the kids sitting next to them.

“But when you put that kid on a motor, he finds out he has the ability to make $50,000, $75,000 a year, just like that, when (he comes) out of these programs,” she added. “It changes his whole life.”


Hosemann said his mission is to make sure facilities like those in Lowndes County reach into every corner of the community, providing opportunities for students throughout the county, regardless of what school district they attend.

“I want to see these opportunities extend beyond the student population of the district,” Hosemann said. “If somebody is 10 miles away, come out here, talk to Lynn (Wright). Work with him. He’d love to have some of those students in the city school district out here. That’s a barrier that should not exist.”

Wright said the center was never intended to be the exclusive domain of the school district.

“We can work something out,” he said. “We’re open to holding night classes or anything else that would work. We want this to be something that serves the whole community.”

EMCC President Thomas Huebner agreed.

“Come out and see us, talk to us,” Huebner said. “Let us show you how we can use resources available for everyone. We need to be changing perceptions and working harder to integrate with businesses and the community. What are you needs? How can we help?”


Source: The Dispatch

Lowndes County Schools Leads Job Training Effort

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Life after high school for many students may not lead to a college degree.

Lowndes County administrators understand that.

Now, they are leading a movement to prepare students for fields that need trained workers.

Their career tech center made an exception Thursday morning and opened its doors to multiple business leaders, as well as members of our local and state government, showing the potential it holds for students.

The Secretary of State’s office sent out a survey to thousands of businesses in Mississippi.

They asked “what do you need?”

Businesses answered almost the same across the board.

“The most important thing for them was an educated workforce, way over everything else,” said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. “The second most important thing was community support.”

Lowndes County School District shows just that, educating a future workforce in their career tech center, with the community behind them.

“We want to make sure our kids have the skills to fill this need,” said LCSD Superintendent, Lynn Wright.

LCSD hopes partnerships with local businesses can show students a successful career path.

“This is where everything begins, here,” said Hosemann. “Only about 20% of our young men and women will actually get a collegiate degree, and 70% of them have got to work.”

“There are more and more jobs available but less skilled laborers to fill those jobs, and these jobs pay good wages,” said Wright. “They have great opportunities for a good future for our students.”

The lack of an educated workforce is said to be due to lack of communication between school systems and businesses.

Lowndes County’s efforts could begin a statewide movement to train the next generation of workers.

“Not everyone has made this kind of commitment, the commitment that was made here, which is the right thing to do,” said Hosemann. “I mean, we need to take it everywhere and tell them to do the same things, to vision what the workforce is going to look like in the future and train those people, beginning 10th, 11th, 12th grade, all the way up, train them to fit that workforce.”

This coordination between businesses, school systems, and government looks to go deeper than this.

By getting this information and training to students at an earlier age, like at the upper elementary and middle school levels, the state can supply its businesses with the workers they need.


Source: WCBI

Promote the Vote Awards Ceremony held at the Capitol

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — More than 100 of the thousands of students who participated in 2017 Promote the Vote activities were recognized at the Mississippi Capitol for high achievement in the arts and writing.

Promote the Vote is Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s comprehensive K-12 voter education program.

Hosemann’s office said more than 1,200 students entered the art contest, Participants were told to My Mississippi,” or an industry, person, landmark, or other notable symbol from their region of the State. For the essay contest, entrants were asked to write about “Moving Forward,” by identifying an issue in their region of the State and proposing a way to address it.

“One of the most important things we can teach our children is about our past because learning about the past makes us more informed voters at the ballot box in the future,” Secretary Hosemann said.

First-place winners will receive a $100 savings account provided by sponsor banks across the State. The schools first-place winning students attend will also receive $100. Additionally, winning students will receive a free entry to the Mississippi Museum of History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.


Source: WJTV

Secretary of State’s Office earns awards for web creativity, leadership in cybersecurity

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — Two of the Secretary of State’s Office websites have earned recognition for its web content.

Y’all Vote and Charities Online are Silver W³ Award winners.

The W³ Awards honor creative excellence on the web and recognize the people behind award-winning sites, marketing programs, social content, mobile site/apps, and online video.

“Our team is laser-focused on organizing data and information in a way which is intuitive to Mississippians,” Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said.  “This has helped us fulfill our core mission: operating the agency from the citizen up.”

Y’all Vote aggregates all election information on one easy-to-use website.  The site also allows citizens to check their registration status and allows registered to voters to change their address online if they have moved to ensure their ballot counts.  Since the site’s launch in September 2016, it has received more than 44,000 hits, 5,300 Mississippians have checked their voter registration status, and 1,396 Mississippians have changed their voter registration address online.

The Charities Division completed its process to move all registration forms online in April 2017.  Charities and other entities required to register in the State can also verify and approve their information online before submitting it.  Currently, more than 3,700 charities are registered in Mississippi, and more than 4,200 charities have filed exemption paperwork.

The W³ Awards are sponsored and judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA), top-tier media, interactive, advertising, and marketing professionals.  For more information about the awards or AIVA, visit or

Additionally, McAfee recognized Russell Walker , the Agency’s Chief Technology Officer, for his attention and dedication to cybersecurity in its annual Digital Government Cybersecurity Leadership & Innovation Awards.  Walker has worked for the Secretary of State’s Office for six years facilitating the virtualization of the Agency’s infrastructure, modernizing outdated policies, and enhanced the overall security of the network.

“Network security initiatives start from the top down,” Walker said. “I’m grateful to work for an organization which has invested in necessary training and equipment, and prioritized keeping our networks secure.”

Walker was honored at McAfee’s MPOWER Cybersecurity Summit in October 2017.


Source: WJTV

Services for folks on the autism spectrum to be covered after age 8

Ian’s giggle radiates through the Capitol. His mom, Jessica McLaurin, gives him a soft “shh” and he responds with a bear hug.

Ian is on the autism spectrum and the therapy he’s received in last three years has improved his communication skills dramatically.

But insurance companies in Mississippi are only required by a state law passed in 2015 to insure for autism services up to age 8, requiring parents to jump through more hoops to prove medical necessity after that.

Ian will turn 8 in July.

On Tuesday, state officials announced they had come to an agreement with three large insurers, BlueCross BlueShield, Magnolia Health and UnitedHealthcare, to remove that age cap.

“That means that when he becomes an adolescent or even 10, we won’t have to scramble to find private services,” McLaurin said.

McLaurin found a private therapist that would see her son for $300 an hour without insurance. “I want him to have the services, but that’s just not feasible,” she said.

Removing the age cap is one step toward improving access to applied behavior analysis, the leading treatment for folks with autism or developmental disabilities. The service helps folks like Ian learn how to interact in different social settings, the classroom versus the grocery store, for example.

It also provides training for parents. McLaurin has had success with a technique for telling Ian "no" without actually using the word "no."

"'No' kind of does something to him. Instead we say, 'You know what, we're going to do that next time.'" McLaurin said.

At one point, Medicaid was reimbursing Ian's services, but when coverage dropped, McLaurin had to pay out of pocket. Instead of three days a week, she had to cut his therapy back to two.

Now, McLaurin doesn't have to worry about losing coverage through her current insurer, BlueCross BlueSheild, after Ian's birthday.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, whose agencies oversees the Mississippi Autism Board established by the 2015 law, and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney worked together on the deal. The three large insurers cover roughly 90 percent of Mississippi children with autism and the other smaller insurers have no age cap.

Chaney said Hosemann helped him with one insurer who was hesitant to agree to the deal.

"He said, 'Let me see what I can do.' He went out there on his own nickle ... and visited with the CEO and moved the ball forward. That's the type of guy you have, people who make a difference. And when you work together in government you can move mountains and help your constituents."

The Insurance Department has also made available new online resources for parents, including an insurance reimbursement guide, a link to a list of applied behavioral analysis providers and providers in-network, a link to the autism spectrum disorder screening tool, an FAQ and insurance term glossary and other guides. These are available at

Navigating insurance isn't easy. Though the law guaranteeing coverage for children with autism passed in 2015, McLaurin spent all of 2016 working through the process, finally getting coverage in 2017.

"In my work, I visit with parents and children trying to navigate the complicated insurance system every day," Mississippi Autism Board Chairman Dr. Jim Moore said in a release. "We are grateful for Commissioner Chaney's leadership in aggregating resources to make finding critical information easier for those who need it."

Lori Unumb, a representative from Autism Speaks, a national organization that advocates for folks with autism, called the announcement unprecedented. She said she had just visited Idaho, one of only four states yet to address insurance coverage for autism services.

When telling Idaho representatives their state is behind, one asked, "Wait a minute, has Mississippi done this?" Unumb said.

"Now, I had to say to this person, 'In fact, Mississippi has not only passed this legislation, you cannot believe everything they're doing for their children with autism.'"


Source: The Clarion-Ledger

Promote the Vote

Judging is underway for our K-12 grade Promote the Vote program (an art and essay contest). This year we designed a publication focusing on A Bicentennial History of Mississippi for the program. We will be honoring the winners at the State Capitol on February 8. I have enjoyed visiting schools while traveling throughout the State.

MS Business Survey Results

Our office surveyed almost 100,000 Mississippi businesses to determine their needs, employee qualifications, barriers, and what was most important to their operations.

We received more than 1,800 responses. An educated workforce to improve our economy is of vast importance to Mississippi’s businesses. Significant results from businesses included:

  • About to 75% of businesses find it moderately to significantly difficult to find an educated workforce.
  • About 45% would expand in Mississippi if they had an educated workforce.
  • More than 40% said having an educated workforce is most important to their business; more than 20% said community support was most important.

To view the survey results, click here: Y’all Business Survey Results

Hosemann leads all elected officials in approval ratings

A potential race for governor between Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Democrat Attorney General Jim Hood has no clear winner and nearly 20 percent of voters are undecided, according to a new poll from Millsaps College.

Millsaps College partnered with Chism Strategies for its second annual state of the state survey, which was released on the day Gov. Phil Bryant will give the State of the State address to the Legislature. Chism Strategies is a Democratic polling firm that also works with non-partisan groups and businesses.

The poll also shows voters’ views on the direction of the state falls along partisan lines, while only half of independents believe Mississippi is on the right track. In fact, about the only thing a large majority of Mississippians seem to agree on is a shared lack of support for lawmakers.

In the hypothetical governor’s race, Reeves is leading with 44.7 percent compared to Hood with 37.5 percent. The poll shows 17.8 percent are undecided.

While the race is nearly two years out, Reeves’ lead is much narrower than would be expected for the presumptive GOP frontrunner against a possible Democratic opponent. The reason is as much reflective of Hood’s political strength — rare for a Democrat in Mississippi — as it is of any dissatisfaction with Reeves.

That said, Reeves’ support among Republicans (77 percent) is not a strong as Hood’s is among Democrats (84.5 percent), nor does Reeves enjoy the same amount of crossover. Hood enjoys support from 10.5 percent of Republicans surveyed, compared to only 5.5 percent of Democrats who support Reeves. Too, 12.5 percent of Republicans say they are unsure, compared to just 7.4 percent of Democrats.

State of the state

Overall, 41.7 percent of respondents said the state was headed in the right direction, compared to 36.3 percent who said it was headed in the wrong direction. The other 22 percent said they were unsure in which direction Mississippi was headed.

The ideological split over the direction of the state was pretty stark. Republicans largely see Mississippi headed in the right direction, 64-16 percent. In almost a mirror image, Democrats view the state as headed in the wrong direction, 63-14 percent.

Independents, however, are split, with 50 percent having a positive outlook and 25 percent seeing it heading in the wrong direction. Another 25 percent were unsure.

The Legislature seems to be the biggest loser in the poll, with only a 26.3 percent approval rating and 38.2 percent disapproving. Another 35.5 percent of those polled were unsure what to think of the Legislature. Republicans had only a slightly higher opinion of lawmakers than did Democrats. Of GOP respondents, 33.2 percent approved of the Legislature’s job performance, 27.6 percent disapproved and 39.2 percent were unsure. For Democrats, only 15.7 percent approved while 49.2 percent disapproved and 35.1 percent were unsure.

Fixing roads and bridges (23.4 percent) was the top priority out of a list of eight possible responses. Making health care more affordable (20.8) and more funding for public schools (19.3) were a close second and third.

Other issues polled showed:

  • State lottery: 68.8 percent support, 22.8 percent oppose, 8.4 percent unsure. Asked how they would prioritize using funds generated from a state lottery, 50.6 percent said public education would be the top choice. Fixing roads and bridges was second at 28.6 percent. Nothing else polled in double digits.
  • Raising gasoline tax to pay for infrastructure repairs: 38 percent support, 50 percent oppose, 12 percent unsure.
  • How to choose school boards: 68.5 percent elected, 10.4 percent appointed, 13.5 percent would let it vary district to district, 7.6 percent unsure

Approval ratings

The poll did not seek approval ratings for Bryant, Reeves or Hood. Nathan Schrader, director of communications for Millsaps, said they chose not to include these three because their approval ratings were polled in September.

Here’s a quick rundown of the approval ratings of those the poll did test:

  • Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann: 53.4 percent approve, 18.7 percent disapprove, 27.9 percent unsure. Hosemann is expected to run for lieutenant governor, with his name also being mentioned for a possible gubernatorial run.
  • Treasurer Lynn Fitch: 42.4 percent approve, 23.1 percent disapprove, 34.5 percent unsure. Fitch’s name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the third congressional district seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper. She’s also been mentioned as a possible candidate for attorney general in 2019.
  • Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley: 31.2 percent approve, 21.3 percent disapprove, 47.5 percent unsure. Presley is the only Democrat polled. He represents only the northern third of the state. Some have mentioned him as a possible candidate for governor or lieutenant governor in 2019, though it’s hard to see him run against Hood in a gubernatorial primary.

The poll was conducted Dec. 15-19, surveyed 578 voters and has a margin of error of 4.08 percent. It was weighted to reflect 2015 general election turnout for age, race, gender and party affiliation.


Source: Clarion Ledger

Survey reveals big problem for Mississippi business owners

JACKSON, Miss. (WTVA) – A recent survey by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office reveals a big issue for business owners in Mississippi.

The survey of thousands of business owners revealed common hurdles to starting a business, investigating and expanding operations in the Magnolia State.

The biggest issue is the lack of an educated workforce.

“We need more jobs, higher wages and greater opportunities for all Mississippians, but the message businesses are sending us is clear,” said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. “We will fail to accomplish these goals if we do not have an educated workforce.”

Among other responses, the survey shows:

  • About 75 percent of Mississippi businesses find it moderately to significantly difficult to find an educated workforce;
  • It takes more than 47 percent of businesses three months to a year (or more) to find a qualified employee for an open position;
  • About 45 percent of current businesses said they would expand in Mississippi if they had an educated workforce;
  • More than 45 percent of businesses require employees to hold a two-year degree or higher; and
  • More than 30 percent of businesses said an educated workforce is most important to their business, and 20 percent said community support was most important.


Source: WTVA