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Technology, defense and more in focus at MEC’s annual meeting

Anyone who has attended any of the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual meetings knows that the event is more than just a meeting — it is a production. And the MEC is hard at work wrapping up the final details on the 59th edition of its annual meeting, which is taking on a out-of-this-world theme.

The gathering will be held May 7 at the downtown Jackson Marriott. Registration will begin and exhibit booths open at 8:30 a.m.

The event will feature two morning sessions. The 9:15 a.m. session is themed “Want Your Courts to be Fair? Here’s How,” and will focus on the workings of the judicial system. The second session will begin at 10:30 and will offer a choice — regional economic development, a topic that has gained a lot of attention lately with the landing of Toyota in Northeast Mississippi, or “Momentum Mississippi: High-tech and Defense.”

At press time, the MEC was still finalizing the panelists for the morning sessions.

The luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m., and a full house can be expected. As of April 28, more than 800 seats had been sold.

Eat and greet

The scheduled presenters at the luncheon include Gov. Haley Barbour and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. (Speaker of the House of Representatives Billy McCoy has been invited to speak.) Carrying on an MEC annual meeting tradition, Miss Mississippi Kimberly Morgan will also be a part of the festivities.

Every year, the MEC manages to find an intriguing featured speaker for the luncheon, and this year is no exception. Former NASA astronaut and native Mississippian Fred Haise will be on hand to talk about his experiences in space, continuing the high-tech and defense-themed morning session.

Haise’s presentation is titled “Failure is not an Option,” a subject he knows first hand. Born in Biloxi, Haise served as the lunar module pilot during the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission in 1970. (In Tom Hank’s blockbuster film “Apollo 13,” Haise was played by Bill Paxton.)

Haise also served as backup lunar module pilot for the Apollo 8, Apollo 11 and Apollo 16 missions. In addition, he flew five flights as the commander of the Space Shuttle Enterprise in 1977 for the Approach and Landing Program at Edwards Air Force Base.

His list of honors include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Haley Astronautics Award, Gen. Thomas D. White Space Trophy, NASA Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Award, NASA Special Achievement Award and induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

NASA is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the MEC will feature a NASA 50th Anniversary exhibit. There, attendees can check out actual moon rock and learn about space, shuttles and more.

There will also be an area where attendees can participate in the Cell Phones for Soldiers Program, a charitable program supported by AT&T, collects old phones, sells them to a recycler, then uses the proceeds to purchase prepaid phone cards for our military troops.

Serious fun

Once again, the MEC has recruited a long list of corporate sponsors. This year’s sponsors say they are supporting the MEC’s 59th annual meeting due to the good work of the organization in promoting the state’s business and industry, as well as the networking and enjoyment the event offers.

“The MEC plays an important role in promoting economic development and growth in the State of Mississippi, and Cellular South is proud to partner with an organization that is helping boost the quality of life and standard of living of our citizens,” says Jim Richmond, director of corporate communications at Cellular South.

Sanderson Farms Inc. is another sponsor, and treasurer and CFO Mike Cockrell says all manufacturers should support the MEC, which is a great advocate for goods-producers.

“(MEC president Blake Wilson) and his crew do an excellent job of representing the manufacturing industry in Mississippi, not just to the Legislature and the governor, but also the community as a whole,” Cockrell says. “We’re proud to be a sponsor, and try to support them in everything they do.”

Individual tickets are $65 for MEC members and $75 for non-members. (The deadline for sponsorships was May 2.) For more information and/or to purchase tickets, call the MEC at (601) 969-0022, or visit its Web site at www.mec.ms.

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

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