Elected officials from across Itawamba County gave reports from their perspective positions during the Itawamba’s first State of the County, held Thursday at Itawamba Community College.
The event also served as the Itawamba County Development Council (ICDC) annual meeting.
ICDC Board President Cubby Kirksey opened the meeting with a video message from ICC President Dr. Jay Allen, who was unable to attend due to prior commitments. In his message, Allen stated ICC was the top-ranked community colleges in Mississippi and 25th in the nation with over 5,000 students enrolled. The college continues to flourish with the support of tax dollars from the county, he stated.
“We serve 1,600 through workforce training, a valuable asset to our area,” Allen said.
Board of Supervisors President Eric Hughes and Three Rivers Planning and Development District Director of Industrial Development Gary Chandler addressed the group concerning the expansion of the Fawn Grove Industrial Park.
“Fawn Grove has been hindered by the lack of preparedness, especially with the sewer system,” Chandler said. “With over $2-million dollars in funding in place, we are set to start with improvements next year.”
Superintendent of Education Trae Wiygul touched on preparing students for the workforce as well as enrollment.
“Not everyone goes to college,” he told the crowd. “Our technical center does an excellent job preparing those students who don’t for the workforce and the next step in their lives.”
Wiygul also spoke straightforwardly over concerns that the county school district has seen a dip in student enrollment.
“In 2010, we had 710 students enrolled in grades nine through 12. We currently have 553 enrolled,” he said. “Somewhere, somehow, we are losing kids, and we need to get them back.”
Mayors from all three municipalities – Fulton, Tremont, and Mantachie – gave reports on improvements in their respective areas.
Tremont Mayor Robert Don Whitehead stated his town had paid off their water system and moved their town hall to the Tammy Wynette Legacy Park, giving daily access to the building’s museum to visitors. Mantachie Mayor Matt Fennell reported that next year’s improvements to the town’s sewer system will allow Mantachie to add a minimum of 150 homes to the area. And Fulton Mayor Barry Childers said the city is completing its new pavilion at the walking track and new concession stands and a press box at city park.
In overall county development, ICDC Director Vaunita Martin told attendees 34 new businesses had opened over the past year, creating more than $570,000 in revenue.
Martin also recognized Itawamba Jr. Leadership students and their tourism project, Swing by Itawamba County.
“These students are the future leaders of our county,” she said. “Investing in them ensures we have a strong future.”
Comer’s Restaurant received the ICDC’s annual Small Business of the Year award. Tombigbee Tooling was named Large Business of the Year. Teresa McNeece presented Boyce McNeece with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Martin said she was pleased with the content of Itawamba’s inaugural State of the County event and the participation of all involved.
“Our first State of the County meeting was very well received,” Martin said of the event. “Our biggest takeaway was economic development doesn’t happen without partnerships. We are looking forward to doing this again.”