TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- It's strategy time for employees of Surge Staffing in Saltillo.
They are on the front lines of the staffing business, and all too often, they feel alone on the battlefield.
"We see a lot of people who don't have an education. They're not making it out of high school — no GEDs and no diplomas. A lot of our clients are requiring that," senior staffer Jennifer Thweatt said.
There are other problems as well — money.
"We have a lot of trained people who are making $15 an hour, and they're not willing to work for any less. So if they want trained people and they want people to stay, they need to be very competitive with their starting pay," Surge Staffing branch manager Cheryl White said.
Their concerns are likely known to many who attended the Community Development Foundation's 2013 Economic Forecast Conference Tuesday.
CDF Chairman David Copenhaver said much work is being done to educate and prepare Mississippi's workforce. All agree highly-skilled, flexible workers will be key to attracting industry. A great deal of work has been and is being done with high schools and community colleges to make that happen.
Progress is being made.
"Our unemployment rate went down a whole point, so we've got over 800 people that weren't working that are now working in Lee County as a result. So things are going pretty good," Copenhaver said.
Good is also a word being used by Brent Christensen, the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority.
He said jobs are coming back to the region. Experts predict that will continue as the pay gap closes.
"There are a lot of jobs that went overseas in the previous decade that are starting to realize that the advantages they have going in China and other countries aren't as good as they once thought," Christensen said.
Surge Staffing's Terry Reno said she is seeing that already in the form of cut-and-sew jobs that come with training.
"They're willing to reach out to the general public saying, 'If you need a career in this, come to us, and we will train you how to sew,'" Reno said.
Economists predict a slow recovery, but that will not stop state and local officials from moving forward with plans to step up recruitment of new manufacturers.
New products are being brought to the marketplace in terms of sites, buildings, infrastructure and expansion of the Renasant Center for Ideas.