Economic development team launches program aimed at increasing enrollment in Hinds County
With an economic impact of nearly $3.5 billion in Hinds County, college education is big business. Because of that, The Hinds County Economic Development District (HCEDD) has launched a campaign aimed at increasing enrollment in the county’s colleges and universities.
“We just kicked off the campaign,” said Blake Wilson, executive director of the HCEDD. “We commissioned a report on the economic impact of higher education institutions in Hinds County during 2009, and the results were staggering.”
Impact DataSource prepared the impact analysis on eight Hinds County colleges and universities: Belhaven, Hinds, Jackson State, Millsaps, Mississippi College, Tougaloo, Virginia College and University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“If the economic impact is that significant already, imagine what it would be if we brought in even more students from outside the county,” said Wilson. “Once they’re here, they may even decide to settle here after college. The long term effects could be quite positive.”
Betsy Bradley, a Greenville native, did just that. “I came to Jackson to college because Millsaps College was in Jackson. I looked at several schools inside the state and out, but I felt that Millsaps would give me the best educational experience and fit my learning style the best. Millsaps was also a factor in my continued stay in Jackson, although I left for a while for graduate school, because I continued my relationship with the college by teaching there. Then as I learned more about the larger community in Jackson, I grew passionate about its cultural heritage and felt that I could make a difference serving Jackson in the arts. It’s been a very happy choice for me and for my family.” Bradley now serves as director of the Mississippi Museum of Art.
“Ultimately, what we have is higher-educated students coming out into the workforce,” Wilson explained. “That only helps the businesses in our area. Therefore, it makes sense to bring the institutions together to bring a common face to this drive.”
Wilson said that the campaign will be conveyed to the public via television commercials and as many cross promotions as possible with organizations willing to put the logo on their websites to link back to the HCEDD.
“The campaign will convey the numerous educational opportunities in Hinds County, and that’s information that businesses and industries that are considering locating in Hinds County will find useful,” said Patti Wade, director of communications and marketing for Millsaps College. “Millsaps is known for its academic strength, spirit of community service and national-caliber faculty. Many of our faculty and staff reside in Hinds County, and the college draws visitors to the area. They do business with many businesses in Hinds County and contributes to the overall well being of Hinds County and the metro area.”
Wade said that the campaign will also communicate to potential students the educational choices in Hinds County and help them see that they will be part of a vibrant college-age community if they choose to be educated here. “Millsaps is a college of arts, humanities, sciences, business and education. Our graduates are nimble learners who are poised to become principled and compassionate leaders in our society. Any time we can let others from within the state or across the country know about Millsaps, we see that as a positive opportunity.”
With over 38,000 college students enrolled in Hinds County colleges and universities, the impact on housing, restaurants, clubs, grocery stores, and other places college students spent money is significant. Factor in the faculty, staff and in some cases, the families of the students, and it’s easy to see why the campaign is a good idea.
“We are looking at things that make sense to do collectively with the colleges,” Wilson said. “Until now, the colleges have pretty much put forth individual recruiting and marketing efforts. This will allow them to participate in things together now, such as joint job fairs and other things that may make sense to do statewide. We are hoping that this will eventually be a self-sustaining campaign, supported by area businesses.”
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