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Conference will be held April 18

Excellence in Mississippi/Quality Awards slated April 19

JACKSON — Simply competing in the Excellence in Mississippi/Mississippi Quality Awards (MQA) program and the Governor’s Achievement Awards is a challenge in and of itself, but for the businesses that do choose to participate, the rewards are unparalleled.

This is the seventh year of the MQA program and the first year that the Governor’s Achievement Awards will be included in the awards ceremony April 19 in Jackson. Ten organizations will receive recognition for their achievements and participation in the MQA program and three will receive recognition for the Governor’s Achievement Awards. No one was chosen for the Governor’s Award this year, the highest award given at the ceremony.

The criteria for the awards are intended to provide winning organizations opportunities to gain high levels of visibility for achieving breakthrough improvements in financial and market results. These criteria are based on the Baldridge National Quality Program and include leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management and business results.

“An organization that uses the criteria can look forward to achieving their successes in a very systematic way and have a tool to see where priorities for improvement are,” said Duane Hamill, director of the MQA program.

Hamill said the MQA program is a catalyst for improvement in Mississippi within business, education and healthcare.

“The folks who participate, it’s becoming as much their program as anyone’s,” he said.

Greg James, human resources services manager at Piper Impact in New Albany, could not agree more. The company will accept the 2001 Excellence Award at this month’s ceremony.

Piper Impact is a division of Quanex, which is headquartered in Houston, Texas. The company manufactures shell casings for the military, airbag components, shock housings and other metal components for the automotive industry and forged metal components for various commercial applications.

“This whole process helped us learn more about our company as a group than we individually have picked up since we’ve worked here,” James said. “It channels everyone’s focus in on business processes, planning strategy and it’s heavily weighed on the results measured. The results are a result of all the planning you’ve gone through.”

Although the process was a grueling one, “the key is that we learned more about our company last year simply as a result of going through this process,” he said.“They encourage people to become quality auditors.”

Piper Impact has worked hard to grow its business at a time when there was no war, the automotive market had dropped and things were moving toward steel stampings and plastic rather than forged metal. James said the reason the company has been able to survive through such difficult times is as a result of the expertise gained over the company’s 44-year history.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful way to learn about your company because some days are so busy and you’re so frazzled that you don’t know how things work together,” James said. “You just know you’re having a good or bad day. This takes a look at how all the things work together and how the functions work. The application is one of the best learning experiences a company could have.”

The Baddour Center is a 2001 recipient of the Quality Commitment Award. The center is a nonprofit organization serving adults with mild and moderate retardation by providing an array of services that include residential programs and vocational programs, which executive director Steven Dickie calls “community life.”

“I feel very good about the program,” Dickie said. “But the award is not an end in itself. The process of improving the quality of services that we provide to men and women with mental retardation is what the award is all about. It’s flattering and significant and we celebrate the award but what’s more important is improving the quality of services provided to adults with mild and moderate retardation.”

Like James, while Dickie feels the application process was an exhausting one, the program has been helpful to the success of his organization.

“It involves significant commitment to complete the application,” Dickie said. “But everyone in our organization I think would agree that responding to the questions required a team effort that involved a cross-section of management and staff. The program creates resources that enable nonprofits to advance their missions.”

This is the Baddour Center’s second year to participate in the MQA program and it is the third year for Piper Impact to participate. But this is only the beginning for the two organizations. Dickie has plans to continue in the program, and while James is planning to take next year off, he vows to return for the 2003 awards program, when he hopes Piper Impact will receive the Governor’s Award.

Winning, however nice, is not everything. The MQA program will also hold the Excellence in Mississippi/MQA conference on April 18 at the Clarion Hotel. The Thursday workshops cover many cutting edge topics, such as lean manufacturing and “Six Sigma,” which are of great interest to the manufacturing sector, Hamill said. A workshop focused on improving education called “Quality Kids,” sponsored by WorldCom, will also be held. Dickie expects to have between 100 and 150 participants in the Thursday workshops.

Whatever level the participants in the MQA program choose to participate, Hamill hopes their participation continues far into the future.

“This year’s list of winners adds to a virtual who’s who list of organizations in Mississippi that have been involved in the program in the last seven years,” Hamill said. “We’re also delighted to note that many of the organizations that receive the highest levels of recognition are organizations that have participated several years in the program.”

For more information about the Excellence in Mississippi/MQA conference/award ceremony at the Clarion Hotel, call Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s office at (601) 359-3110, or call the MQA office at (601) 432-6480.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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