Mississippi economic growth predicted to rise in 2013

JACKSON — Economists say growth and employment should increase in Mississippi next year, led by an improved housing market and an increase in home construction.

Forecasters discussed their outlook at a Tuesday conference held by the College Board in Jackson.

Mississippi’s economy is predicted to grow 1.6 percent in 2013, compared to an expansion of only 0.5 percent this year. Payroll employment in the state should grow 1 percent, compared to staying flat or barely shrinking in 2012. Mississippi will slightly lag the nation in both output and employment growth

The economists assume Congress and President Barack Obama will at least temporarily avoid the year-end package of spending cuts and tax increases being called the “fiscal cliff.” If not, the nation and state could see a brief recession in 2013′s first half.

Memphis restaurant caught mislabeling catfish

A Memphis television station recently reported that The Dixie Café was selling Vietnamese farmed pangasius labeled as “catfish” and failed to properly identify the fish to consumers. Under federal law, only American channel catfish (ictalurus) may be sold as catfish.

The FDA said it only physically inspects between one and two percent of fish imports, meaning 98 percent or more of imported pangasius eaten by Americans has not been inspected at all for safety. In sharp contrast, Bill Battle, a U.S. Catfish farmer in the Memphis metropolitan area said the FDA inspects his operation once a month. “If they found any of the dangerous additives frequently found in Vietnamese fish in my fish, they would shut me down,” Mr. Battle added.

As reported by media and consumer organizations across the nation, as much as 50 percent of seafood Americans eat in restaurants is mislabeled. Often, cheap and potentially tainted Vietnamese pangasius is illegally sold as other, more expensive species including catfish and grouper. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee require restaurants to label the country of origin (COOL) of catfish served. The federal government, however, has no such requirement, and not every state law covers pangasius, which is often served as “catfish.”

McAlister’s announces sales growth

The sweet tea, sandwiches and spuds really are that good.

McAlister’s Deli announced today its ninth consecutive quarter of positive comparable sales growth, according to a company statement.

Third-quarter same-store sales at company-owned restaurants were up 6.9 percent and franchise restaurants were up 7 percent.

According to a McAlister’s  spokeswoman, the growth is attributed to, “the restaurant chain’s commitment to offering quality food and genuine hospitality to guests.”

Founded in 1989 in Oxford, McAlister’s is currently owned by Roark Capital and plans to expand its franchises to additional cities in Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Mississippi and abortion the subject of one national political columnist

In this column, Robert Shrum says sensible Republicans seeking to renew the viability of a conservative party that seems out of touch after a stinging defeat at the polls are being denounced as ‘heretics.’ Shrum says the party might never find its way back.

Later in the piece, Shrum says …

One of Limbaugh’s targets, Steve Schmidt, a veteran of Bush 2004, who managed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 reelection and John McCain’s 2008 campaign, was at NYU’s post-election conference at Villa La Pietra in Florence. The Republicans and Democrats there, both analysts and leading actors in the Obama and Romney efforts, heard senior Romney adviser Kevin Madden, a convinced conservative, regret that his candidate had been pushed so far to the right during the primary season. Alex Castellanos, who worked for Romney four years ago, called for a “bottom up” conservatism relevant to middle-class voters, one that offered them clear and persuasive benefits. (He didn’t say “gifts.” He was focused on opportunity.)

Schmidt was blunt. The GOP had to abandon the ceaseless pursuit of the last white guy in Mississippi at the expense of alienating the mainstream. He argued a case in point: Republicans should be “a pro-life party,” but not “the anti-contraception” party, which is how Romney sometimes came across as he felt forced to match the über-purist Rick Santorum in the primaries. Castellanos mentioned that since Republicans believe in states’ rights, the answer on abortion might be to reverse Roe v. Wade but then leave the decision on the issue to each state.

MBJ readers vote overwhelmingly against rate increase for Mississippi Power Company

Mississippi Business Journal readers, so far, are overwhelmingly against Mississippi Power Company being awarded a rate increase which would help pay for the Kemper County coal plant.

Mississippi Power is appealing to the Mississippi Supreme Court the Public Service Commission’s decision not to act on rate increase requests until the litigation surrounding the facility is finished.

To this point, 89 percent of MBJ readers, who voted in the poll, believe the Supreme Court should deny the request for the rate increase.

On June 22, commissioners voted 3-0 to deny a 13 percent rate increase the company wanted to employ to help pay for the Kemper plant. The increase would have generated about $58 million. As part of the denial, commissioners said they would not rule on any rate increase requests until the state’s high court had its say on the Sierra Club’s latest legal challenge to the facility. The environmental advocacy organization has opposed the plant from the jump, calling it expensive and unnecessary.