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First time companies to Miss 100

Harriette Stevens says it’s a high honor to be included on the Mississippi 100.

The general manager of Southaven’s Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership said a lot of work by the company helped it make the highly anticipated private companies list.

“(Our owner) Lisa Wade works seven days a week,” Stevens said. Southern Thunder has been “delivering dreams” since it first opened in 2006. As Wade explained to the Mississippi Business Journal in 2011, the idea for a motorcycle business came to her after a 26-year career as an optometrist. “Frankly I needed a new challenge,” she said, even though she‘d never sold a part or motorcycle before in her life.

“It only took a short time to realize that business is business,” Wade said. “Treating customers well is the road to success no matter what the product or service.”

While most companies would take the weekend off to enjoy recreational activities, Saturdays and Sundays obviously are the busiest sales time for folks in the motorcycle business. Southern Thunder reported $17 million in sales last year and Wade was named one of Mississippi’s “50 Leading Business Women” by the MBJ.

Southern Thunder has grown to 40 employees and opened a new 54,000-square-foot LEED-certified building in 2010 to help tackle the north Mississippi and Memphis metropolitan market. “We sell motorcycles but we really build relationships,” Stevens said.

Gaming is a leading industry in the South Mississippi economy and a few of state’s home-grown privately held casinos were added to Mississippi 100 this year.

Treasure Bay Casino and Hotel opened in Biloxi in 1994 and despite Hurricane Katrina, the recession and the 2010 Gulf oil spill they are going strong with a reported $58 million in annual sales. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed the popular pirate ship casino and its Beach Boulevard home in 2005, the owners had to make the tough decision of whether or not to rebuild in Mississippi.


Susan Varnes, president and COO of the company, credits Mississippi’s post-Katrina land-based legislation with keeping their operations in the Magnolia State. “After Katrina we weren’t sure we would rebuild. It would have been heartbreaking to leave,” she said. “It was a bit of a difficult decision.”

Today, while the company’s majority of properties are in the Caribbean, Treasure Bay has reopened its Biloxi casino and hotel back on Beach Boulevard. Treasure Bay includes 26,000 square feet of gaming space, five food and beverage destinations and a small venue for banquets and comedy shows. It’s also the closest hotel to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center.

Taylor Group chairman William A. “Lex” Taylor III in Louisville credits his company’s corporate success to faith in God and a solid workforce. The holding company’s flagship business Taylor Machine Works started in 1927 and today is the only heavy forklift manufacturer left in the country, according to Taylor.

Taylor Group also oversees several support companies including Taylor Power Systems in Jackson and Taylor Vision, a technology company that has patents on a device to help machinery detect and avoid backing into obstacles or operators.

“As Louisville and Winston County go so goes Taylor,” Taylor said. “As we prosper Louisville and Winston County prosper.” The company saw an estimated $300 million in sales in 2011 including in foreign markets like Mexico, Central and South America and Canada. Its heavy lift equipment is also being sold in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Taylor said having a good proactive management philosophy and “good solid people” are also part of his company’s success amid a difficult economy. “The folks we have are the best in the industry and respond to the customer’s needs,” he said.

Others new to Miss 100

Island View Casino Resort

City: Gulfport

Year Founded: 2006

Reported Sales: $163 million


Palace Casino Resort

City: Biloxi

Year Founded: 1997

Reported Sales: $93 million


All American Check Cashing

City: Ridgeland

Year Founded: 1999

Reported Sales: $10.7 million


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