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Entrepreneur awards:

As I See It

A year has passed since the Mississippi Business Journal joined the Ernst & Young team as the Mississippi media sponsor for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Program.

The blooming dogwood trees are announcing the arrival of spring, and we are announcing the rapid approach of the deadline to submit nomination packages for consideration in this year’s program. Completed nomination packages must be submitted to Ernst & Young by Friday, April 6, 2001.

The initial competition is conducted regionally with Mississippi and Louisiana treated as one region. Winners of the regional competitions from around the country are eligible for the national competition, which is held each November in Palm Springs, Calif.

On June 15, 2000, four Mississippians were selected as finalists in the Louisiana/Mississippi Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

The highest award given is for Master Entrepreneur, and Jackson’s own Bill Hogg, founder of Valley Innovative Services, Trendline Corporation and many other successful businesses, won it last year. Mr. Hogg’s acceptance speech was spontaneous, insightful and highly motivating.

Billy Mounger II of Tritel Inc. was another Mississippi winner last year. 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. From start-up to public company in just a year or two!

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.

Finalists will be selected from among those nominated by the April 6th deadline. Those finalists will be invited to a two-day event in New Orleans, beginning with a VIP reception Thursday night, June 14, 2001. A seminar aimed at the special interests of entrepreneurs will be held on Friday morning and the awards banquet will be held Friday evening, June 15, 2001. All events will be held at the elegant Hilton New Orleans Riverside.

No doubt, a good time will be had by all.

It is not too late to submit a nomination if you hurry, but you can’t let grass grow under your feet. Nomination packages can be obtained from the New Orleans office of Ernst & Young, LLP by calling (504) 581-4200 and speaking with Nancy Dickson.

In many ways, entrepreneurs are like artists. They don’t follow the crowd; they lead it. Leading crowds involves having a vision and the drive necessary to move that vision to reality. They try, frequently fail, then they try again.

It is much easier just to “go with the flow,” but entrepreneurs have an itch that can only be satisfied by following their dream. In his acceptance speech last year, Mississippi’s master entrepreneur Bill Hogg summed it up when he said, “eagles don’t flock.”

Though the headlines favor the big, new plants moving into town, savvy economic developers know that the vast majority of jobs are created by small business and not by the multi-nationals. Our free enterprise system depends on entrepreneurs building businesses to deliver their product or service. Rarely do these feats get properly recognized. For this reason, all of us owe a debt of gratitude to Ernst & Young for conducting the Entrepreneur of the Year awards program.

Once the finalists are determined, we will put together a special publication honoring and highlighting the accomplishments of the Mississippians who make it to the final round. MBJ will be in New Orleans to partake of the excitement that the Entrepreneur of the Year program always generates.

We hope to see you there.

Thought for the Moment – Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served … or the gods of the Amorites, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. — Joshua 24:15

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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