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Grants, contributions and time boost communities

Many of Mississippi’s largest companies leverage their size to make positive impacts in the state and their communities. Four of them — Taylor Machine Works, Entergy, Nissan and Mississippi Power — spoke to the Mississippi Business Journal about the various ways they and their employees are involved in meeting community needs.

Lex Taylor, president of Taylor Machine Works, said his company is homegrown and may have a different perspective for that reason. The Winston County company was started in Louisville in 1927 by his grandfather.

“It started here and we’re still here,” he said. “Whatever our employees are doing and whatever is going on in the community, it’s a longstanding thing for us to be there to support it and underwrite it. With our people involved, we’ll be there in some way.”

Noting that 10% of the community’s workforce is employed by Taylor Machine Works, he said the company has a symbiotic relationship with the community. The company has 750 employees at the Louisville plant and others across the country for a total of 1,000.

“It’s not one event that’s all inclusive. We get involved in a broad spectrum,” Taylor said. “When the community has a need, we’re there. Our philosophy is: how goes the community, so goes Taylor Machine Works. We love the community and want to be a good citizen.”

‘Committed to the communities’

Serving 45 counties in western Mississippi, Entergy also has a broad spectrum of involvement that includes economic development, chamber activities, Little League, education, environmental and cultural endeavors.

“We’re very committed to the communities we serve, and we’re active in all of them,” spokesman Checky Herrington said. “We work with all the organizations and encourage our employees to be involved because as those communities get stronger so do we.”

Entergy also assists communities in marketing themselves with economic development in an effort to help them put their best face forward with prospects.

Thousands of dollars are distributed each year through grants for school improvements, parks, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

“We added an environmental grant program a few years ago,” Herrington said. “That’s important to us. We make contributions to cleaning up streams, and we’re working to preserve the black bear. Guidelines and forms for these grants are available on our Web site. We’re able to meet a lot of needs this way.”

A drive to help

One of the state’s largest employers, Nissan North America was a welcome addition to Central Mississippi when its Canton plant opened. In the fall of 2006, the company unveiled a Nissan/BankPlus Education Mini-Grant Program to the 27 principals of Canton and Madison County schools. The program is administered through the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson.

“In partnership with the plant’s financial institution, BankPlus, we’re offering more than $45,000 this year to teachers in these two districts,” said Harriet Laird, Nissan-Canton spokeswoman. “Through our corporate Nissan Neighbors program, we awarded $25,000 each to the 100 Black Men of Canton and Jackson for mentoring projects. These funds will be used for deserving students who otherwise would not be able to participate in projects like this.”

Nissan Neighbors also funded the John M. Perkins Foundation education mentoring initiative at a Jackson public elementary school. It’s a pilot program expected to expand to other schools in the Capital City.

Other large dollar contributions include those to the Madison County Habitat for Humanity, public colleges and universities in the state, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Mississippi and the Mississippi School for Math and Science. A long list of non-profit organizations benefits from assistance from Nissan-Canton.

“Additionally, many Nissan employees participate on community-based boards that include United Way, Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Mississippi Children’s Home Services, Boys and Girls Clubs, Mississippi Economic Council and the Madison County Foundation,” Laird said. “The number one indicator that we are having an impact on the surrounding area is the growth. No matter where you look roads, restaurants, retail businesses, schools and new homes are being built.”

At the core

As part of its core principles, Mississippi Power Company encourages employees to be an integral part of their communities in the 23-county service area.

“Our employees can be found as active members of civic organizations, churches and recreational programs,” said spokeswoman Cindy Duvall. “We are proud of the leadership role our employees play and support their passion to serve.”

The Gulfport-based company’s corporate involvement falls into the main categories of environmental, education and economic development with giving managed through a foundation for each. Teaching awards recognize excellence in the profession.

“Mississippi Power continues to be recognized for local, state and national awards for environmental stewardship,” she added. “The Education Foundation was established in 1984 and since its inception has donated more than $3 million in grants and awards to teachers, schools and educational projects.”

One of Mississippi Power’s main projects, Renew Our Rivers, is a two- to three-day annual event for which employees recruit other companies and the general public to clean South Mississippi’s waterways, beach front and coastal preserves, including the Okatoma River in Forrest County. More than 30 tons of debris is collected each year.

The Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day is held each year at the company’s Plant Watson. This year, more than 800 cars came to the collection site.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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