Upbuilding People and Places Sonny's WayThe mission of The Montgomery Institute (TMI) is to upbuild people and places in East Mississippi and West Alabama…Sonny’s way. That means TMI pursues innovative upbuilding activities for people and places in the region, guided by the leadership legacy of our namesake, the late Congressman G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery. More...
East Mississippi – West Alabama Service Area
The bi-state region TMI serves expands and contracts as resources and program opportunities present themselves. In 2000, TMI started with an eight county region, six in Mississippi and two in Alabama. By 2003, the region served had grown to 16 counties, 10 in Mississippi and six in Alabama. Successfully landing a WIRED grant in 2006 expanded the region served to 37 counties, 19 in Mississippi and 18 in Alabama. Since the WIRED grant concluded in 2010, the region served by TMI has returned to 16 counties.
From humble beginnings in Meridian, Mississippi, Sonny climbed to heights of political and personal success, yet always held tight to the principles he treasured – faith, fellowship, persistence, and patriotism. In so doing he earned the respect and admiration of all with whom he came into contact. Sonny’s leadership legacy guides our work in the guise of humble and faithful service, a commitment to lasting relationships, never quitting on worthwhile endeavors, and love for our country, our communities and our people. More...
Faith was the backbone of all Sonny believed, and manifested itself in his love for people. His humble service and gentle demeanor expressed his beliefs more eloquently than a loud voice.
Sonny’s uncanny ability to relate to folks from all walks of life served to connect him on a deep level with those he met. His ability to establish and maintain lifelong friendships was legendary.
When Sonny believed in something he always saw it as worth the fight. He didn’t know the meaning of the word quit or give up. Whatever it took, however long it took, until he got the job done…that was Sonny’s way.
Known to colleagues as Mr. Veteran or Mr. National Guard, Sonny’s love for his country was without equal. During his 30 years in Congress Sonny devoted much of his energy to ensuring that those who fight for our country have every opportunity to succeed in life.
When we received permission from Sonny to name the Institute after him, TMI committed to two things. First, we would pursue our program of work “guided by the leadership legacy of G.V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery.” Second, we would preserve and promote Sonny’s legacy. TMI has consistently strived to live up to these commitments and will continue to do so. Click here for more on Sonny and his legacy.
Innovation and Resources
TMI pursues innovation and resources to upbuild people and places in East Mississippi and West Alabama. Twice – in 2003 and 2010 – the 13-state Southern Growth Policies Board presented TMI its “Innovator Award” in recognition of innovative approaches to leadership development and place building. With our partners, TMI has attracted over $30 million in resources to support innovative projects in the region. Most of these funds have gone to other institutions to provide educational, workforce, entrepreneurial, and leadership services to individuals. More...
This note from Dr. Raj Shaunak, EMCC Vice President for Workforce and Community Services, illustrates TMI’s approach to pursuing innovation and resources to regional partners. “Our successful manufacturing training programs that have helped us land major projects like PACCAR and, now, Yokohama, grew out of the WIRED grant and Governor Haley Barbour’s follow-up grant to TMI. What began as an exemplary pre-hire training program for advanced manufacturers is now the basis for training highly-skilled, highly-paid electro-mechanical and Mechatronics technicians for sophisticated manufacturers. Thanks to Governor Barbour for his visionary commitment to innovation in workforce development and to The Montgomery Institute for sustaining this beneficial multi-college program.”
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear presented TMI President Bill Crawford and Chairman C. D. Smith with the 2010 Innovator Award. Ted Abernathy, executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board (SGPB), said the Institute’s innovative “Rural Place Building” program “was chosen from a strong pool of nominees in the Southern region as an outstanding initiative that helped communities recover from the economic downturn.” Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said “The Montgomery Institute’s important work to enhance the economic vitality of the West Alabama-East Mississippi region is exemplary.”
Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove presented TMI President Bill Crawford with the 2003 Innovator Award for The Montgomery Institute’s innovative work in leadership development. The Governor noted TMI’s work to reconcile conflict and diminish cultural, racial and regional tensions by building bridges through dialogue and collaboration and by establishing trust and respect among the citizens and organizations of the region.
|Funding for TMI programs comes from federal, state and local governments; philanthropic organizations; businesses; and private citizens. Major grants awarded include: Riley Foundation start-up, program, and endowment awards totaling $1.67 million; Phil Hardin Foundation start-up, program, and endowment grants totaling $608,800; U.S. Department of Labor competitive grants – a $15 million Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, a $4.5 million ARRA Building Health Care Ladder Opportunities for Unemployed and Dislocated Workers in East Central Mississippi grant, a $2.7 million TAACCCT Golden Triangle Modern Manufacturing Project with East Mississippi Community College, and a $2.5 million TAACCCT Winston County Manufacturing Recovery Project with East Central Community College; State of Mississippi grants: $706,555 Mississippi Entrepreneur Training Program WIA and ARRA grants from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, $627,000 Mississippi Entrepreneur Alliance CDBG grants from the Mississippi Development Authority; and a Walmart Foundation grant of $400,000 through its America Works Initiative matched with $155,000 from state WIA funds and $50,000 from the National Center for Rural Community Colleges at Mississippi State University.|
ProgramsSince its inception in 2000, TMI and partners have undertaken innovative projects in leadership development, educational improvement, workforce development, entrepreneurship, rural place building, research and information dissemination, and regional cooperation. The Aspen Institute studied “effective rural workforce partnerships” for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. Aspen described TMI’s work as “opportunistic.” We call it “adaptive.” TMI adapts to available opportunities, resources, and area needs, but always within the guidance set forth in our creation documents and mission statement. As a small rural institute with limited funding, this “adaptive” approach is the only practical approach for TMI to sustain our program of work. More...
TMI called upon two proven regional leaders to help develop TMI’s approach to region building. Dr. Malcolm Portera, then president of Mississippi State University, and Mr. Dwight Evans, then president of Mississippi Power Company, worked with founding president Bill Crawford and the Board of Directors to craft the following programmatic areas: 1) leadership development; 2) regional cooperation; 3) regional self-perception and self-examination; 4) research and exposure to new ways/ideas; 5) identification of the bigger issues important to the future; 6) build consensus – finding the common ground that regional leaders can agree upon, and create a “booster spirit” for the region; and 7) act as a change agent for the region. TMI continues to follow these original guidelines.
TMI’s vision for regional economic development was crafted as part of the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative. Regional leaders adopted the approach presented by Dr. Mark Drabenstott, director of the RUPRI Center for Regional Competitiveness Center. “You’re in a global economic race…and ready or not you’re in it!” said Drabenstott. In this race, “standing still is not an option.” To win the race, he said regions must 1) build on its assets and strengths, 2) build critical mass, and 3) build competitive advantages.
Rural Place Building
To develop its approach to place building within the region, TMI looked to the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University since all communities in the West Alabama-East Mississippi (WAEM) region served by TMI qualify as rural. SRDC director, Dr. Lionel Beaulieu, pointed to leadership, networking, coaching, resource gathering, and using data to drive strategy development as keys to rural community development. With this guidance, TMI began formulating its award-winning rural place building approach for the WAEM region:
“Who builds and maintains great rural places, and how do they do it? There are builders who see opportunities and seize them. We call them entrepreneurs. There are builders who manage already built good things and keep them viable and ever renewed. We call them stewards. There are entrepreneurs and stewards who not only build and maintain for themselves and their organizations, but, with great passion for place, also build for their communities. We call them place builders.”
|Meridian Freedom Project
The Meridian Freedom Project (MFP) is a year-round after-school program for middle school and high school students. The program seeks to build a corps of academically capable, socially conscious and mentally disciplined young leaders in the Meridian area. MFP is a sponsored program of Meridian Community College in partnership with The Montgomery Institute and the Freedom Project Network. The Phil Hardin Foundation provided resources and leadership to start-up the project. Anna Stephenson, a Teach for America veteran, is the project director. For more information click here.
| WAEM Mayors Network
| Mississippi Entrepreneur Alliance (MyBiz)
In April 2005, the Mississippi Entrepreneur Alliance (MEA) was formed by Mississippi community and junior colleges, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Small Business Administration, and TMI. Its mission was to energize and grow Mississippi’s entrepreneurial potential, especially in rural areas. TMI’s role has been to champion and facilitate entrepreneur programs for partners through multiple grants (WIRED, ARRA, WIA). TMI also sponsored a multi-agency workgroup, encouraged by Governor Haley Barbour, that formulated a set of policy recommendations to enhance and better coordinate entrepreneurship and small business development in Mississippi. In accordance with those recommendations, TMI transferred leadership to the Mississippi Development Authority’s new Entrepreneur Center (http://www.msenetworks.org/). TMI continues to champion regional entrepreneur activities, operate a regional entrepreneur website (MyBiz.AM) and provide MDA access to U.S. Sourcelink’s “Resource Navigator.”
Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition for Kemper, Neshoba, and Noxubee Counties
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