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MEC turning to technology to keep members connected

As the statewide chamber of commerce, the Mississippi Economic Council (MEC) must cover a lot of ground and a plethora of issues. To accomplish this, it offers a wide range of programs and services, and it is turning more and more to technology to keep its members up to date and informed on what’s happening with the state government in Jackson as well as news and events all across Mississippi.

Scott Waller, MEC’s vice president of public affairs, said, “Sometimes we serve in a supporting role, sometimes we’re out front like with the tort reform issue or Momentum Mississippi. Basically, we are looking to improve the business climate in the state.”

Strength in numbers

The MEC’s prime mission is to build a sense of statewide community. To accomplish this, the organization deals with business-related issues, works to coordinate efforts of various state coalitions and looks to get members involved so as to create a united front in the business community. The four cornerstones of this effort is advocacy, research, resources and leadership.

There are a number of measures that show how effective the MEC has carried out its mission. One is its membership of more than 7,000 business leaders. A large number of Mississippi’s most prominent business and community leaders are MEC members.

A list of the MEC’s supporters reads like a who’s who of state business. Just a small sampling of its major supporters includes AT&T, BancorpSouth, Entergy, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., Viking Range, Nissan North America Inc. and Northrop Grumman. In total, the MEC lists more than 120 businesses as backers.

Another measure is the organization’s longevity. In 1948, a labor relations issue was before the Mississippi Legislature, and business leaders were invited to the State Capitol to express their views. A grand total of two businessman appeared. One was Greenville businessman Edmund Taylor, and the lack of turnout pushed Taylor to organize the business community statewide to give it a voice in governmental affairs. In December of that year, more than 300 business leaders gathered at the Heidelberg Hotel in Jackson for the group’s organizational meeting. In 1949, the MEC was chartered, and has been in active operation ever since.

A full plate

Keeping its members informed and involved is a tall order, and the MEC fulfills its mission by offering numerous programs, events and services. And it is continually adding to those efforts and activities.

A few of these include: Hobnob Mississippi, a popular annual networking event offering fun, food and information; A Capitol Day, which gives attendees a chance to meet and get to know the state’s lawmakers; the MEC Annual Meeting; and, the Trailblazer Tour, a relative newcomer that makes stops across the state and focuses on improving education and workforce development.

Other programs include the S.T.A.R. Student program, which recognizes high school seniors who have the highest ACT scores and possess a minimum GPA of 93, and the development program Leadership Mississippi.

And the MEC is heavily involved in programs outside of the organization. Blake Wilson, MEC president, sat on the steering committee of Blueprint Mississippi, and the group worked hard to promote and support Momentum Mississippi, a sustained long-range economic development implementation organization that used the Blueprint Mississippi plan as a foundation.

High-tech delivery

Events such as Hobnob and the Trailblazer Tour illustrate that face-to-face interaction remains an important way for the MEC keeps its members informed and connected. However, the organization is relying more and more on technology to deliver information to its widespread membership.

“One of our key visions is to give our members a meaningful voice at the State Capitol without them having to leave their desks,” Waller said.

To this end, the MEC now offers “Blake’s Blog;” the Legislative Scrambler, a breakfast event that links participants via a conference call that kicked off in January; and, MEC Connect.

MEC Connect is another new offering. It, too, connects participants via conference call, providing real-time audio and interaction. The MEC thus far has conducted MEC Connect broadcasts with the Mississippi Development Authority, Mississippi Department of Employment Security and Mississippi Department of Transportation. The MEC was pleased with the participation of more than 800 individuals for the three events.

The vehicle for these high-tech services is the MEC’s Web site (http://www.msmec.com). The Web site has become a mega-portal not only for the MEC’s services, but also for statewide business news and legislative updates.

Waller gave credit to Kelly Monaghan for the Web site’s ever-growing popularity. Public relations manager at the MEC, Monaghan was brought on board last summer and charged with, among other things, revamping the organization’s Web site.

Her efforts have yielded impressive results. The Web site is now receiving as many hits in a day as it once received in a month. And the all-important page views have more than doubled.

More high-tech offerings are planned. The MEC is looking to expand the MEC Connect program, and the group is also looking to add video, creating a media center on the site.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.


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