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'State's Chamberof Commerce' gathers for 55th-annual meeting April 28th

MEC expects packed house for meeting

A fifth consecutive packed house is expected at the Mississippi Economic Council`s 55th-annual meeting April 28 at the Crowne Plaza Jackson Downtown Hotel.

“We’re expecting another record crowd,” said MEC president Blake Wilson, who noted that most of the luncheon`s seats had already been reserved. “We’ve seen tremendous interest in our morning issue sessions devoted to the hottest issues on the stove – education and tort reform, as well as an update on BluePrint Mississippi. We appreciate the governor, lieutenant governor and house speaker agreeing to participate at a time when the legislative session will be in its final 11 days.”

Registration will begin at 8 a.m., followed by concurrent morning sessions, beginning with an update on the BluePrint Mississippi initiative at 9 a.m., and followed by sessions on education and tort reform at 10:30 a.m. Panelists for the sessions will be announced closer to the meeting date.

Gov. Haley Barbour, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, House Speaker Billy McCoy and Miss Mississippi Allison Kellogg will participate in MEC`s annual meeting luncheon, which will feature West Point native John H. Bryan, retired 25-year chairman and CEO of the Sara Lee Corporation, as keynote speaker. The luncheon will begin at noon; tickets are $65 per person.

Bryan follows a list of impressive native Mississippi speakers for the annual event, including W.G. “Mickey” Holliman Jr., chairman, president and CEO of Furniture Brands International, the largest manufacturer of residential furniture in the world; FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith; former FedEx executive and Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale; former AOL Time Warner executive Bob Pittman; and Amory native and world renowned talent scout Sam Haskell III, who produces the biannual Stars Over Mississippi benefit concerts held in Amory the first Saturday in October, and is known as “TV`s Talent Man” from the William Morris Agency.

A graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, where he earned an economic and business administration degree, Bryan holds honorary degrees from Northwestern University, Roosevelt University and Columbia College, all Chicago-area schools, and from Millsaps College in Jackson. He became president and a company director of the Sara Lee Corporation in 1974 and chairman in 1976, serving as CEO from 1975 to 2000 and as chairman until his retirement in 2001. He co-chaired the World Economic Forum`s annual meeting in 1994, 1997 and 2000. He serves on the boards of BP, Bank One Corporation, General Motors and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Based on his contribution to civic, business and cultural affairs on a global scale, the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago has named him Man of the Year. Crain`s Chicago Business and the French-American Chamber of Commerce named him Executive of the Year in 1992 and 1997, respectively. A laureate of the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame, Bryan was inducted into the National Junior Achievement Hall of Fame in 2000.

Queen Beatrix conferred to Bryan Holland`s Order of Orange Nassau. France`s Ministry of Culture and French Language appointed him a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. In 2002, he received the Humanitarian/Life Achievement Award from the National Urban League and was also appointed Commendatore all’Ordine della Republica Italiana by the president of the Italian Republic.

Bryan chairs The Art Institute of Chicago, and is leading a $100-million campaign to renovate Chicago`s Orchestra Hall and Lyric Opera House. He also chairs a private development project to build a $400-million Millennium Park on Chicago`s lakefront. In 1998, President Bill Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts on behalf of the Sara Lee Corporation for his outstanding patronage of the arts. He received the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Award from Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2000. In 1995, the Chicago Cultural Center Foundation named a block of East Washington Street after him.

“Many people realize that John Bryan is internationally known for leading the Sara Lee Corporation for 25 years, but they don`t realize he`s a very active, strong philanthropist,” said Wilson. “John helped build the company into the mega corporation that it is, but he`s also made a career of doing well by also doing good. He never lost sight of the fact that the Lord always takes care of those who do the right thing by doing well for people. He`ll talk to us about his philanthropic experiences, and its important role in business.”

BancorpSouth, BellSouth, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, Entergy Mississippi, Mississippi Business Journal, Mississippi Power Company, Mississippi Valley Gas, Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Time Warner Cable, Trustmark National Bank and Union Planters Bank are corporate sponsors for the event. Various levels of sponsorship remain available, from $200 for entrepreneurs to $3,500 for corporations.

Last year, MEC hosted Mississippi Express, a series of statewide meetings aimed at “exploring fresh ideas and innovative ways of getting things done smarter, better and cheaper,” said Wilson. The statewide business organization also hosts an annual Capital Day in January, providing MEC members an opportunity to meet legislative leaders.

Forums are held twice a year to discuss relevant business issues in the state. More than 400 people attended last year`s Lieutenant Governor`s Small Business Summit, featuring keynote speaker David Oreck of Long Beach.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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