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Awards programs, business party draw thousands

The state’s best employers, youngest and brightest rising stars and leading businesswomen will be honored in three special awards programs at the Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO 2006.

The kick-off breakfast, slated for 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 18, will recognize winners of the first-ever Best Places to Work in Mississippi program, sponsored by Trustmark, Mississippi Development Authority and SuperTalk MS 97.3 FM.

“Trustmark has been a leader in our marketplace for over 100 years,” said Gray Wiggers, senior vice president of public affairs for Trustmark. “We’ve been a supporter of the Mississippi Business Journal’s EXPO since its inception 23 years ago. We believe the sponsorship of the kick-off breakfast helps set the stage for two days of interaction with many clients, customers and friends. This gathering promotes positive energy from all businesses and groups that attend. Many relationships are fortified and new contacts are made through this medium. We wish each exhibitor and sponsor a safe and prosperous New Year.”

Tickets to the Best Places breakfast are $33 each, or $225 for a table of eight. Doors open at 7 a.m.

Glimpse of the future

The Top 40 Under 40 luncheon, which begins at noon on January 18, will honor 40 of the state’s leading businesspeople under the age of 40. Adams and Reese, LLP, and Health Management Associates Inc. Mississippi Division are sponsors.

“Each year, the Top 40 Under 40 award recipients give us a glimpse into the future of Mississippi through the achievements of 40 extraordinary young leaders who are making a difference in business and the community,” noted Charles P. Adams Jr., managing partner of Adams and Reese law firm in Jackson.

During the luncheon keynote, Rick Looser, president and COO of The Cirlot Agency and a former Top 40 honoree, will discuss the communication firm’s new Mississippi: Believe It! Campaign.

“The Cirlot Agency’s intention is to present this statewide image campaign to the state as a gift,” he said, whose firm invested more than $100,000 in time and money on the campaign.

The seeds for the campaign were planted three years ago, after a client told Looser about speaking with a group of national business writers. “The writers believed Mississippi had no publicly traded companies when, in fact, Mississippi is home to several,” recalled Looser. “This misconception was the catalyst for the agency’s creation of this widely varied campaign.”

Last year, the agency created a public service announcement that read: Yes, we can read. A few of us can even write. It featured famous writers from Mississippi, such as Eudora Welty and William Faulkner.

“No other state is so misunderstood or so quick to be judged,” Looser pointed out. “We wanted this to be done in a smart, creative and even humorous way to disarm preconceived notions that companies from Mississippi have to deal with getting business outside the state.”

For the new campaign, Flowood-based Service Printers donated the paper and printing, valued at more than $20,000, for the 22,000 posters. They were initially ready to unveil in schools statewide August 30, a day after Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The rollout was placed on hold until after Thanksgiving.

The campaign also includes 11 public service announcements that will be distributed to newspapers, magazines and trade publications, the Associated Press and other wire services. Television stations, Mississippi Public Broadcasting and university and college publications will also receive the campaign.

Tickets to the Top 40 luncheon are $45 each, or $325 for a table of eight.

Relaxed and entertaining atmosphere

To complete the trifecta of special events for the first day of EXPO, the Business After Hours Party will begin at 5 p.m. MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce, AmSouth Bank and WLBT-TV3 are sponsoring the party, featuring music by Debbie Buie and The Yes Men, sumptuous food from 20 restaurants, a cash bar and door prizes.

“AmSouth is pleased to be an avid supporter of the EXPO and its organized functions designed to help participating businesses grow, such as the Business After Hours Party,” said Tony Sims, Mississippi marketing manager for AmSouth Bank. “This party has always been one of the more eagerly anticipated events on the schedule because it allows business leaders to mingle and network with their peers and potential clientele in a relaxed but highly entertaining setting. We believe all attendees will enjoy the opportunity to unwind a bit and listen to some great music, and hope it will in some way enhance their overall EXPO experience.”

Admission to Business After Hours is $5.

On Thursday, January 19, the doors open at 11 a.m. to accommodate the capacity crowd at the popular Business Woman of the Year luncheon, which starts at 11:30 a.m. The Mississippi Economic Council, BellSouth Mississippi, St. Dominic Hospital and Regions Bank sponsor it.

The keynote speaker will be Dale Smith Thomas, a Mississippi native, former Mrs. Tennessee and a former radio personality who is now a “life coach,” president of Winners by Choice Inc. and author of the recently released book, “Solo In The Spotlight.” A graduate of Mississippi State University with a degree in physical education, she recently guest-starred on the “Dr. Phil Show.” She has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight” and hosted the National Singing Championships with Dick Clark in 1998.

“Regions Bank is very proud of its support of the Mississippi Business Woman of the Year luncheon as it highlights the tremendous achievement and contribution of so many talented businesswomen in Mississippi,” said Curt Gabardi, president of Regions Bank of Greater Mississippi. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to join the MBJ in its commitment of celebrating such a deserving group of business professionals.”

All 50 leading business women will be honored. Twelve finalists will be featured and one will be named Mississippi Business Woman of the Year. Former winners include, respectively, Sister Mary Dorothea Sondgeroth, CEO of St. Dominic Hospital; GodwinGroup advertising executive Robin Tannehill of Oxford; artist Gail Pittman, CEO of Ridgeland-based Gail Pittman Inc.; Frances Lucas, president of Millsaps College in Jackson; Quality Health Services CEO Eleanor Rogers; and D’Auby Schiel, chairman and CEO of Community Bank Coast.

Tickets to the Business Woman of the Year luncheon are $45 each, or $325 for a table of eight. Reserve tickets at events@msbusiness.com.

Eyevox Film and Production Company is handling the video awards presentation for both luncheons, and the actual awards are provided by National Awards.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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