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Macro-level cooperation needed to prepare West Tennessee for approaching changes | Opinion

The Jackson Sun logo The Jackson Sun 10/17/2021 Brandon Shields, Jackson Sun
a man wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Brandon Shields © The Jackson Sun Brandon Shields

Matt Marshall’s discussion of the DREAM Initiative to bring $25 million of grant funding to fill gaps to help socio-economically distressed people in rural West Tennessee sounded similar to a few other discussions that have happened lately among local leaders as he talked about more than 50 groups and entities working together to get that grant.

Jackson-Madison County Schools Superintendent Marlon King has done a quality job in his nearly 16 months on the job of entering partnerships between the district and many other partners throughout the community to put the district and its 23 schools in better position to succeed.

United Way of West Tennessee (led by Marshall), the City of Jackson, Tennessee Homeless Solutions and West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation have all been involved together in an effort dating back to 2020 to construct a permanent homeless shelter in Jackson to give homeless men somewhere to go when it’s cold.

Churches, non-profits, and other entities are finding new ways to help people in the middle of a global pandemic in which health officials’ guidelines to slow the spread of viruses seriously handicaps previous methods that involve high amounts of human contact and face-to-face interaction. But they’re working to get it done anyway.

And of course, the big one that will have a potential effect for decades is the announcement of Ford Motors’ Blue Oval City coming to Haywood County was the result of work of a lot of people for nearly two decades to convince the state they could bring a massive manufacturer to the area and to make the Memphis Regional Megasite an attractive place for someone like Ford.

All of these things don’t happen without teamwork and cooperation.

It’s hard to get local business and governmental leaders to buy into the vision of the new school superintendent without some kind of cooperation and follow-through on initial goals for the district.

The work for the homeless shelter is proving to be difficult so far because that’s a project that not many will willingly get involved in by selling or building a quality building as economically efficient as possible. But the fact that group is as close as it is to making the shelter a reality shows the effectiveness of their collaboration.

And once the pandemic affected every one of us, getting smaller groups of people on board with helping each other out for the good of students in school or those who’d lost their jobs or were in danger of losing their jobs was an easier sale than it might’ve been a year earlier.

And you’re probably not going to convince a globally-recognized car builder to put $5.6 trillion into Haywood County without making Jackson, Memphis and the rest of West Tennessee part of the sales pitch. Haywood County and Brownsville are great, but until about a year ago the area had no hospital and there are still plenty of things to do regarding housing and infrastructure to prepare the area for Blue Oval City.

The point is it is difficult to get anything of significance accomplished without working together.

If you’ve been in rural West Tennessee for any significant amount of time, you can see evidence that this part of the state seems to get overlooked by those in power more times than not. We don’t have mountains or Music Row or Beale Street or professional or SEC sports. So we’re not regarded as highly as our fellow Tennessee citizens.

(For the record, I enjoy the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival, International Food and Arts Festival, Friday night high school football or a trip to Discovery Park of America and everything else that’s a part of rural West Tennessee culture as much as if not more than I enjoy a trip to Memphis, Nashville or East Tennessee.)

But maybe if leaders of the past here had worked together to bring something like Ford here, the area would’ve transformed decades ago.

But the past is the past, and there’s no time like the present and the near future to continue to build on the momentum the area has gained in recent times.

So hopefully the DREAM Initiative will be successful, and we’ll see quality of life for the lesser fortunate get a little better and gaining employment become easier when everyone decides to get back to work.

And homeless people in the area will be in a better position to get back on their feet after spending necessary time in the shelter after a run of bad luck.

And community partnerships with JMCSS will continue to yield more wins for the district to the point that other districts will take notice and get suggestions from what is happening in Jackson.

And because of all that, the quality of life and the development of the workforce for the Blue Oval City will become even better than the potential we see now.

Then we’ll look back 10 or 20 years from now how all of this worked together for the betterment of all of rural West Tennessee.

Brandon Shields is the editor of The Jackson Sun. Reach him at bjshields@jacksonsun.com or at 731-425-9751. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or on Instagram at editorbrandon.

This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: Macro-level cooperation needed to prepare West Tennessee for approaching changes | Opinion

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