TUPELO • The CREATE Foundation’s Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi will host its 23rd annual State of the Region meeting from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday at the BancorpSouth Conference Center in Tupelo.

The meeting is free and open to the public, and advance reservations are not required. Registrationand coffee hour will begin at 8:30 a.m., with the program to follow.

The theme of this year’s meeting will be “Expanding Our Workforce.” The featured speakers will be Jay Moon, President and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association; Dr. Kristy Luse, vice president of CREATE’s Toyota Wellspring Education Fund; and Dickie Scruggs, the founder of 2nd Chance MS.

“Our economy is growing but will never reach its full potential until we can assure employers that our region has a qualified, available workforce,” said CREATE President Mike Clayborne. “There are two basic ways that we can expand our workforce. The first way is to prevent youngsters from dropping out of school and help connect them to meaningful career paths. Second, our region must encourage those without a high school diploma to earn a GED type of high school completion followed by obtaining a work credential or pursuit of a college or university education.”

Moon will describe current and future job needs in Mississippi.

He will be followed by Luse, who directs the programs and initiatives of the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund. She will describe the history of educational support provided to the K-12 public schools in Pontotoc, Union, and Lee Counties, with detailed descriptions of the career awareness and readiness initiatives currently underway.

Scrugg’s is best known as the architect of the litigation that resulted in the multi-billion dollar tobacco settlement and for later going to federal prison in a judicial bribery scandal. In prison, Dickie taught high school equivalency courses to other inmates. That experience led him, upon his release, to establish 2nd Chance MS, which is a nonprofit collaborative effort with Mississippi’s Community Colleges to raise awareness and funds for adult education and skills training.

In addition, the Jack Reed Sr. Northeast Mississippi Community Leadership Award will be presented. This award is supported by an endowment at CREATE, which was funded by a special dividend from Journal Inc., the parent of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. The award is presented on an annual basis to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in helping improve the quality of life in his or her community and in the northeast Mississippi region. Last year’s winner was Mike Staten of New Albany.

Three written reports will be available for those in attendance. The Northeast Mississippi Regional Profile will be supplemented by the Progress Report on Regional Goals. CREATE Foundation’s 2018 Annual Report will also be distributed.

The Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi has been CREATE’s major program component since 1995. The purpose of the Commission is to build cooperation and unity through regional community development. It is comprised of 54 volunteer leaders from 17 counties. The Commission studies data, identifies key issues, sets goals and objectives, and works with numerous partners to address the issues and hit the targets.