MEMPHIS — The Mid-South Mayors’ Council, of which Jonesboro Mayor Harold Copenhaver is a member, is creating what will be called the RegionSmart Tri-State Compact Initiative, whose sole purpose is to maximize regional competitiveness and determine regional priorities.

Fifteen mayors and other officials, both elected and representatives of business and governments, comprising seven counties in the tri-state area met at the FedEx Forum in Memphis to hear a presentation and panel discussion on the benefits of the alliance.

The goal is to create an interstate “compact,” which exists for many reasons in 200 places around the nation, most notably New York-New Jersey Port Authority compact, said RegionSmart Executive Director Anna McQuinston.

“It starts the conversation and it connects us with all the things we visualize as making better quality of place for Jonesboro,” Copenhaver said in a news release.

The room of about 80 leaders included some good friends and some meeting for the first time.

“In this area, we feel like the land of misfit toys,” Southaven, Mississippi Mayor Darren Musselwhite said, citing the disconnect of the region with its respective state capitals. “Northeast Arkansas doesn’t get all it needs from Little Rock. DeSoto County feels like Jackson, Mississippi, sort of thinks of it as Memphis, and Shelby, Fayette and Tipton counties feel a disconnect from Nashville.”

“Our lives are intertwined,” Tipton County Executive Director Jeff Huffman said.

In addition to Copenhaver, Jonesboro Grants Director Regina Burkett and Alan Pillow, director of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Transportation Planning Commission, as well as ArDOT director Lorie Tudor, state Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer of Jonesboro and state Sen. Dan Sullivan participated.

State Sen. Keith Ingram of West Memphis said a third bridge across the Mississippi River is an example of a priority project for this organization.

“We’ve done a poor job of collaborating to raise up our region,” Musselwhite said. “This can fix that.”

Other possible projects included recruitment of large employers, improving waste-water and sewer infrastructure, seeking funding for wider existing highways, and working with school systems to provide an educated candidate pool for regional employers.