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Street Talk

This Friday the 15th there is a job fair hosted by the Yalobusha Economic Development District. It will be at the First Baptist Church Activity Center at 801 North Main Street. Bring yourself and plenty of resumes and be ready to interview. Major regional employers will be there from 9 a.m. to 1 pm. and there are good paying jobs to be had.  Many of the opportunities are more than jobs, they’re entry ways to real careers. 

This is the first time such an effort has been made, at least recently, and the challenge is to see if the Yalobusha workforce is up to the demands of these employers. Of course, it is also a challenge for these companies to be competitive enough that people want to work for them, or better yet, work with them.

 Last week in this newspaper there was a headline in the upper corner of page four. I thought it summed up Mississippi for the last 100 years in an oblique nutshell. It read, “Stats showed there were 12 deaths and 32 births in the county in 1949.”

If you read the paragraph about the headline, it was only for the month of January 1949. That month was right in the leading edge of the Baby Boomer generation. But that headline could have been written and applied to almost any month in Mississippi in the last century.

 Because what Mississippi has done best is produce way more people than die here. Most born here don’t stay here, they live and die elsewhere. They leave. And most leave as young adults. Factors like race or gender or wealth (or lack of) don’t seem to be a deciding issue. They all leave. 

In the last 100 years, the United States’ population has tripled, the state population has increased by a half. The years between 1940 and 1970, the fastest growth years in the USA in the last century, were essential a flat no-growth period here. So, despite a birth rate two and half times the death rate, this state and this town’s population has remained almost the same. That’s a lot of people leaving. And not a lot coming.

 The trend continues as the millennials ages 23 to 38 are leaving as fast as any generation in the last 100 years ever did. The next group, called Generation Z, those born since 1997 are “fixing to leave.” Nothing has changed. Currently there is less than a one percent increase in the state’s population for the last 10 years. 

 Why is this? Why is Mississippi always losing people? 

Why is Mississippi, while the southern region as a whole is the fastest growing, the only one not growing?  

Surveys say different things as to why people go, as in what motivates them to leave.  What are the disincentives that keep them from coming? I see it as simple economic and social stagnation, people go elsewhere to make money and have fun and enjoy life. Better is elsewhere and not far away.

The fastest growth areas are in the south or near west. Places like Nashville and Denver and Dallas and Atlanta. You know, those cities where your children and grandchildren live. They’re not living in this state anymore.

 What is a small town to do? What are the baby boomers to do, now in their last decade of being relevant, in their waning days of leadership?

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