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Mississippi entrepreneurs make us proud

As I See It

On June 15, 2000, Mississippi achieved a milestone toward enhancing our reputation as a good place to start and grow a successful business. Four Mississippians were selected as finalists in the Louisiana/Mississippi Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

Several of us MBJers made the trek to New Orleans to attend the awards banquet. It was held at the Hyatt Regency and the setting was personified elegance. Ernst & Young went all out to provide a setting befitting the achievements of the night’s honorees. In spite of torrential rains, everything came together for a most enjoyable evening.


The highest award given is for Master Entrepreneur and it was won this year by our Jackson’s own Bill Hogg, founder of Valley Innovative Services, Trendline Corporation and many other successful businesses. Mr. Hogg’s acceptance speech was spontaneous and insightful. He told me afterwards that he was caught off-guard since he didn’t win the industry category which he had entered and assumed that he had won nothing and could relax and enjoy his dinner.

Bill Hogg is 83 years old. He is as sharp as a tack. I found his remarks insightful. In discussing the nature of entrepreneurs, Mr. Hogg reminded us that leadership and innovation is a lonely business. His comment that “eagles don’t flock” pretty well sums it all up.


Billy Mounger II of Tritel Inc. was another Mississippi winner. As everyone in the central Mississippi area knows, Tritel, under Billy’s leadership, has allied itself with AT&T and operates under the SunCom banner. In just over a year, Tritel has progressed from an idea to a publicly-held company. Now, that’s what I call rapid growth!


Billy and Linda Howard, founders of Howard Industries in Laurel, won the Manufacturing Award. The Howards’ have spent the past 30 years building a manufacturing empire in the Laurel area. From establishing themselves as giants in the heavy-duty electrical transformers and ballast manufacturing industry, they have diversified into trucking and, most recently, computer manufacturing. Through their efforts, the prospect of thousands of high-tech jobs in Jones County is becoming a reality.


Though they did not win their category, Mississippi was well represented by a host of other successful entrepreneurs. James Alexander, founder of A & B Electric in Meridian, was one of the contestants. Mr. Alexander has so many ongoing ventures that I am unable to comprehend how he keeps up with them all. He is a delightful person and someone we can all be proud to have represent our state.

William Alias III and John Lewis, founders of Security Check in Oxford, were among the honorees. These young men discovered a needed service in an underserved market and, like all good entrepreneurs, they jumped in to fill the void. They have built their business around collecting bad checks for merchant customers.

Gail Pittman is another inspiring entrepreneur who found a niche and exploited it to the hilt. Her hand-painted ceramics add elegance to many of the finest homes around the world. Beginning as a school teacher and making ceramics as a hobby, to an internationally acclaimed artist and entrepreneur, Gail has retained her grounding and talking with her is always a pleasure.

The three winners are eligible to go on to the national competition in Palm Springs, Calif., in November of this year. We wish them every success and know that Mississippi will be well represented.

We want to thank Ernst & Young for allowing us to be the Mississippi media sponsor for the 2000 program. The firm provides a valuable service to the business community through the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Program. We look forward to participating in the program again next year.


Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

— ROMANS 12:21

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.


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