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Smooth sailing at MEDC’s summer conference on the Coast

When financial manager Ed McMillan gave pointers on how to protect an economic development organization from being the target of an IRS audit, attendees paid attention.

“People were taking notes like mad,” said Christy Knapp, conference programming chair of Mississippi Economic Development Council’s (MEDC) summer conference. “Ed gave us lots of practical tips on how to protect yourself and your organization, and how to prepare for an audit if you are targeted.”

More than 300 economic development professionals attended MEDC’s “Sailing Toward Success” conference, held July 7-9 at the Isle of Capri Resort in Biloxi.

“It was very well attended, with some of the content slanted toward professional development this time rather than just economic development ‘practitioning,’” said MEDC president Max Hipp. “The courses were interesting, and the locations were nice, too.”

The three-day event, which also included tennis at Treasure Oak Country Club and sailing the Biloxi Sound, kicked off with Jack Reed Sr., chairman of Tupelo-based R.W. Reed Company Inc., presenting the Mississippi Community Leadership Association’s (MCLA) annual Projects of Excellence Awards.

Every year, MCLA, created by the Mississippi Economic Council in 1988, selects three innovative leadership programs in Mississippi. This year’s winners, in no particular order, were: “Are Your Kids Covered?” by Leadership Mississippi, a project sponsored by the M.B. Swayze Educational Foundation in Jackson, targeting improved access to the state Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP); “First Call for Help,” by Leadership Lauderdale, a program sponsored by the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation in Meridian, to establish a referral system for area social service organizations; and “Freedom Summer Trail,” by Leaders for a New Century, a project sponsored by the Hattiesburg Area Development Partnership, to develop a trail designating sites that served as Freedom Summer Schools in the summer of 1964.

At the Volunteers of the Year and Governor’s Cup Awards Banquet Thursday night, Vicksburg Outlet Partners, Ltd., of Vicksburg, received the Governor’s Cup Award for Economic Excellence as the overall winner in the small business category. District winners included AGJ Systems & Networks Inc., of Biloxi; Belinda Stewart Architects, P.A., of Eupora; Catfish One Inc., of Laurel; and TecInfo Inc., of Leland.

Greenwood-based Viking Range Corporation received the Governor’s Cup Award as the overall winner in the large business category. District winners included Ameristar Casino Hotel in Vicksburg; Craft-Co Enterprises Inc. of Morton; Franklin Corporation of Houston; Georgia-Pacific Leaf River Pulp Operations of New Augusta; and Mississippi Power Company of Gulfport.

McMillan also presented “Stayin’ Alive — Sound Financial Management for Association Execs” and “Fraud/Embezzlement — Protecting Your Organization and Your Job,” two “very well-received presentations,” said Knapp.

“Financial management is such a big issue for economic developers because most of us work for non-profit organizations, and the financial aspects cover fundraising, budgeting, operations and more,” said Knapp, who also serves as assistant executive director for the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation. “Ed’s was one of the most outstanding and amazing programs I’ve ever sat in on. He gave us some really sound advice on setting up financial statements and including good footnotes for board members who aren’t necessarily from a heavy financial background to understand. In the ‘Fraud’ seminar, he impressed upon us our responsibility to pay attention, be alert, and make sure we have policies and procedures in place to protect ourselves and our organizations.”

Concerning other agenda items, MEDC legislative chairman Phil Hardwick said a one-day meeting is planned in August to take a comprehensive look at Mississippi’s laws regarding economic development.

“We will be looking at barriers to economic development in the current laws as well as potential changes or new laws,” he said. “We’ll have more details after that meeting.”

This fall, Jim Flanagan, president of the DeSoto County Economic Development Council, will take over as MEDC president. The winter conference will be held Feb. 9-11 in Jackson.

“Jim is a real professional and I’ve been so happy to work with him this year as program chair,” said Hipp. “I look forward to him taking over. He will represent the entire organization well.”

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

About Lynne W. Jeter

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