More than 800 business leaders from around the state are scheduled to attend the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual meeting, dubbed a “Millennium Business Celebration,” May 11, 2000, in Jackson.
“The most exciting thing about this meeting is not so much the MEC part, but the coming together of lots of business people with varied interests,” said Blake Wilson, president of MEC, a 51-year-old statewide pro-business organization, with 6,000 businesses on its active communication list, with another 1,000 anticipated by the end of the summer. “MEC is the glue that holds a lot together, or the catalyst for pulling people together. What’s really exciting about the annual meeting is that it represents the coming together of a lot of the energy that makes Mississippi so unique.”
Transportation Commissioners Dick Hall and Wayne Brown, DeSoto County Superintendent of Education Jerry Baird, Maddox Foundation Managing Trustee Robin Costa and Howard Computers president Linda Howard are featured speakers for the first morning session on MEC’s campaign for Mississippi’s future, which includes classroom Internet access and transportation.
“The morning sessions provide an opportunity to showcase some of the interesting work that is going on in Mississippi,” Wilson said. “We’ll hear some interesting things from the MTI group in the afternoon. Of course, we’ll hear a visionary presentation by Jim Barksdale, as he comes home to Mississippi and shares some of his observations with us.”
Economic development and increased reading skills will be discussed in the second morning session by Barksdale Institute co-founder Sally Barksdale, its acting director, Dr. Richard Boyd, Pike County Economic Development District director Britt Herrin and Tate County Economic Development Foundation executive director Janie Mortimer.
“These days provide great opportunity for those of us who call Mississippi home,” said Dwight Evans, president and CEO of Mississippi Power and chair-elect of MEC. “Not in recent history has the private sector demonstrated such commitment to the economic vitality of this state.”
James L. Barksdale, a Mississippi native and former president and CEO of Netscape Communications Corporation who is currently serving as managing partner of The Barksdale Group, a full service investment advisory firm founded last year, is the keynote speaker during the luncheon session.
“Jim Barksdale…has exhibited outstanding leadership in molding the technology-driven sector of our economy into the spear point of America’s economic growth…and we are fortunate to bring MEC members a visionary businessman who has invested his time, talent and financial resources in the future of Mississippi,” said Donald L. Kilgore, MEC chairman.
Jim and Sally Barksdale recently funded the $100-million Barksdale Reading Institute at Ole Miss, which will foster reading skills for schoolchildren.
“Jim Barksdale’s commitment to Mississippi will help propel us into a future that knows no limits,” said Wilson. “His contribution to Mississippi school children has sent a powerful signal to others, and it will have a profound impact on the direction of our state.”
The afternoon session will focus on expanding Mississippi’s communications and information technology advantage, including a special program by Mississippi Technology Inc. Harvard University business school professor Michael Porter will talk about the analysis and recommendations resulting from the communications and information technology industry cluster study, funded by the private sector and led by MTI. MTI is a newly-organized, nonprofit organization funded in part by the Mississippi Legislature to create wealth through high-paying, quality jobs.
“As Mississippi secures its place in the changing landscape of global commerce, it is essential that we have an organization with an overall perspective on the importance of technology as an economic development tool,” said Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development executive director J.C. Burns. “MTI will be the hand that guides the process as companies go from concept on a university campus all the way to a commercially feasible operation.”’
Under Blake Wilson’s leadership, the MEC has turned the corner in fulfilling its role as the state chamber of commerce, said Harry Baxter, vice chairman of BancorpSouth in Tupelo, who plans to attend the event.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1018.