Mississippi County jobs program making progress

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Almost 52,000 people live in Mississippi County.  A recent study reveals that 6,000 of  those residents are unemployed.

The Great River Economic Development Foundation interviewed 400 of the unemployed county residents as part of the Miss Co Pride project to find out why they are out of work and build an employment program based on residents' answers.

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation assisted the local leaders in organizing and the county wide survey using the story circle method.  Mississippi County residents met over the course of several months to answer questions about the county workforce.

Interview facilitator Lynda Williams said people thought the loss of the Eaker Air Force Base in the 1990s was a primary contributor to the county decline. "We didn't have a great deal of more companies coming in," she said.

Gosnell native Chris Lopez hopes his decision to go to college will save him from the unemployment in his community. "One of my friends is trying to get a job at Walmart and she still hasn't been called for it yet, and she's applied several times."

Williams said the story circles made interviewees feel less inhibited. "This gave everybody an opportunity to feel comfortable."

"No one was militant in there.  They just felt like 'we just want to be able to work.  We just want to be able to have access to quality education and have the tools to equip us to go out and do the job.'"

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