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MTA hosts stellar Mississippi Innovators Hall of Fame gala

On May 13, an event was held at the Mississippi TelCom Center in downtown Jackson that was like no other before it. The occasion was the inaugural Innovators Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held by the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA) to recognize the state’s greatest inventers and pioneers.

By all measures, the first ceremony was a success. Before the first ceremony, MTA had determined that this would be an annual event. Now, it is doubly excited about the program going forward.

“It was exciting just to see all of those people in the same room,” said Kim Gallaspy, director of external affairs at the MTA. “They’re giants.”

One cannot appreciate the state of the state’s technology economy today, or get a feel for where it is going tomorrow, without looking at the past. That is the whole idea behind the Innovators Hall of Fame, said Heath Hall, MTA’s vice president for external affairs and marketing.

The MTA began working on the program back in December of last year. The MTA staff chose the honorees, 13 in total. The honorees were:

• Diplomat, advisor and entrepreneur John Palmer, former chairman of SkyTel in Jackson and current ambassador to Portugal. Palmer took the top honor – the Legends Award.

• Edward Barq Sr. (posthumously) (Excellence Award), who pioneered carbonated drinks at Barq’s Root Beer in Biloxi

• Dr. Arthur Guyton (posthumously) (Excellence Award), ground-breaking physician at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson

• Jimmy Creekmore (Excellence Award), who owns TELAPEX Inc., the parent company of Cellular South in Jackson

• Hartley Peavey (Excellence Award), founder of Peavey Electronics in Meridian

• Nathan McNeill (Leadership Award), co-founder and vice president of product strategy at Ridgeland-based Bomgar Corporation (formerly NetworkStreaming)

• Bill Rayburn (Leadership Award), co-founder of FNC Inc. in Oxford

• Chip Slack (Leadership Award), chairman and CEO of Intechra Holding Corporation of Jackson

• Maury Knowlton (Leadership Award), CEO of Cleveland-based InTime Inc.

• Dean Bertram (Leadership Award), president of KDL Solutions in Hattiesburg

• Jeff Casady (Leadership Award), president and CTO of SemiSouth Laboratories Inc., which was founded in Starkville

• Stephen Johnston (Leadership Award), CEO of Jackson-based SmartSynch Inc.

• Mark Rodgers (Leadership Award), chairman and CEO of Samarion Inc. of Jackson. (Rodgers also founded SmartSynch, and served there as president and CEO before coming to Samarion.)

“I think MTA does an outstanding job, especially connecting people to capital,” Rodgers said. “It’s an honor to be recognized in this first Innovators Hall of Fame.”

Gallaspy estimated that more than 400 people attended the inaugural event. She said the MTA could not be more thrilled with how the ceremony was conducted, the interest it garnered or the positive feedback it received.

She said next year’s event is still in its planning infancy, but she said the MTA envisions a similar event. She added, however, that while the MTA staff may once again chose the honorees, it may take outside suggestions, offering a place on its website for award prospects.

“I felt that it was a fitting tribute to these innovators and pioneers,” Gallaspy said. “I think everyone had a great time. I know I did.”

“It is an honor for the Mississippi Technology Alliance to celebrate the accomplishments of these outstanding individuals and companies,” says MTA president and CEO Dr. Randy Goldsmith. “They put Mississippi on the map as a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship and blazed a trail of achievements for those who will follow in their footsteps.”

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

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