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Archive for May, 2010

First legal distillery reminds me of not-so-legal establishment

May 24th, 2010 Comments off

We are working on a story for our print publication this week about Cathead Vodka, Mississippi’s first distilled spirits production facility.

Bottletree Bottling Co. soon will produce an initial run of 2,500 cases of Cathead Vodka at the unassuming warehouse off I- 55.

I think it’s going to be a really good story that Nash Nunnery is working on, but it reminds me of a story from my college days in journalism class.

The class was feature writing at Delta State University, and our professor was Dorothy Shawhan. The assignment was to find the most interesting person you can and do a story on them.

My brother, who is a few years (ahem) older than I, apparently knew this woman from his days in school who ran her own (home) distillery close to the community of Boyle, a few miles from Cleveland.

Sure enough, I found her. She was in her 70s at the time and willing to share her story with me as long as I didn’t share her name.

Deal.

It turned out to be a great story. She gave me all the details about how she had worked a deal with the local authorities to leave her alone and that she had worked relatively unbothered, for years.

She even gave me a gallon of her best work after the interview.

When I presented my story to my class the following week, I brought the product with me and served a Dixie-cup full to all in the class.

Needless to say, there was much coughing and hacking for those who chose to try the “good stuff.”

My father, the Dean of Students at DSU at the time, was not thrilled when I told him what I had done.

Having said that, he did try a sample!

That was 20 years ago, and I have no idea if the woman is still producing.

The folks at Mississippi’s first legal distillery probably won’t like being associated with not-so-legal beverages, but that’s what the story has reminded me of.

I hope you will enjoy Nash’s story next week from the Cathead Vodka business venture.

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Will disaster in the Gulf make for serious change?

May 14th, 2010 Comments off

Will America rise up, change its ways and force companies and government to produce a more sustainable energy lifestyle in the wake of the Gulf oil disaster?
There has been much discussion in recent weeks that Americans may become so horrified at the scenes that are playing out just off our Mississippi coastline that the green movement will be catapulted into the forefront of American policy.
Larry Schweiger, the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, has said that time is now.
“How long will it take for folks to wake up to the truth? Clearly, if there is a moment for us to wake up, this is it,” he said.
And he is probably right.
But as I sat down to write this column, I was struck with cynical thoughts that most Americans aren’t going to demand much of anything in regard to sustainable energy and alternative solutions until it hits them in the tailpipe.
We saw that following Hurricane Katrina when gas prices averaged more than $4 a gallon across the country.
Folks began to trade in their SUVs faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100-meter dash.
T. Boone Pickens became a household name as he appeared on every major news network peddling his idea that wind energy can almost immediately bridge the gap between oil and alternative fuels so that America isn’t so dependent on foreign countries for its oil.
He was sinking billions of dollars into a new wind farm in Texas. It was expected to become the biggest in the world, producing enough power for the equivalent of 1.3 million homes.
But I haven’t heard much about that lately.
So, before I went off on a tangent, I wandered around our offices to conduct a poll of where we believe America is on this subject.
Almost unanimously, people believe the concern is temporary — that once we have moved on to the next disaster, people in Nebraska or Michigan or Ohio or Oklahoma will forget much about what is going on with the Gulf Coast.
If it is not affecting them directly, my colleagues generally agreed, there likely won’t be a long-lasting green movement.
To be fair, all believe, however, that if this situation were to continue with oil erupting into the Gulf for weeks and months, anything is possible.
I guess the bottom line is that we have to wait and see.
Unfortunately, that’s all most people can do until this situation is resolved.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

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Wall Street Journal takes position on natural gas

May 11th, 2010 Comments off

I find it interesting that on the same day (Monday) that the Wall Street Journal had a section front virtually repeating what the Mississippi Business Journal reported multiple times about natural gas that Mississippi Power has re-filed with the Public Service Commission for its bid to build the Kemper County Coal Plant.

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Back in the office, Northway to tell story of the Coast

May 6th, 2010 Comments off

Mississippi Business Journal senior reporter Wally Northway is back from a day on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he talked with residents from bay St. Louis to Ocean Springs about the potential for disaster associated with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

He also spent the afternoon on a media boat that toured some of the affected waters.

“The fight to stave off the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and protect the Gulf Coast’s delicate ecosystem was more than evident,” Northway said.

Look for his story here Friday and in the print edition of the Mississippi Business Journal, which will be available in newsstands Friday afternoon.

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Where’s Wally: Booms out, life goes on in Bay St. Louis

May 5th, 2010 Comments off

MBJ reporter Wally Northway is spending the day on the Mississippi Gulf Coast getting reaction to the Deep Horizon oil spill that threatens the Mississippi Gulf Coast … here is his first report from the scene.

•••

BAY ST. LOUIS — As an oil boom is stretched across the railroad bridge that spans the Bay of St. Louis, more than 40 people showed up to help build the 140th Habitat for Humanity House since Hurricane Katrina struck nearly five years ago.

“People are upbeat and enthusiastic about putting (Katrina) behind us,” said Sherry Bevis of the Bay-Waveland Main Street Association.

Even as the threat of oil on the beaches from the spill of the BP rig looms in the Gulf of Mexico, there is no hint of oil smell in the air and the sense of the people seems to be positive.

“We are putting this community back together again one house at a time,” said Bay business owner Nancy Moynan, who owns Maggie Mays in downtown Bay St. Louis.

Check back later as Wally Northway travels the length of the Mississippi Gulf Coast getting reaction to the Deep Horizon oil spill.

Kemper plant: Yes or no?

May 4th, 2010 Comments off

The state Public Service Commission issued an order April 29 approving Mississippi Power Company’s $2.4 billion Kemper County clean coal plant – with conditions attached.

But Mississippi Power says the Commission has said no to the plant.

And at least two media outlets published erroneous stories saying the company has decided not to build the plant, while the Mississippi Business Journal correctly reported that MPC was mulling its options. And today a company official said MPC will file for a rehearing tomorrow.

How can such simple information be so complicated?

Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey said in an interview that the Commission had indeed approved the plant in its order, although he wished the conditions had been more lax. “I’m very much for the plant, and hopefully we can get that done,” Posey said.

MPC officials call attention to the Commission’s 50-page order on the plant which says the plant does not pass the state’s test for a certificate of public convenience and necessity but “explains how MPC can obtain Commission approval of its Petition.”

“It is very clear that the Commission found that the Kemper request did not warrant a certificate of public convenience and necessity. On page 48 of the Order in the FINDINGS paragraph, they describe the condition as being able to ensure that the ‘certificate, if granted, is consistent with the statute’s ‘public convenience and necessity’ test.’ The words ‘if granted obviously states that a certificate was not granted. Also, on page 49, the Commission expressly states that if Mississippi Power agrees to all the conditions, it will issue an order, certainly stating that they have not issued an order to date,” said Todd Terrell, company director of corporate communications, in a statement.

After April 29 Commission decision, MPC spokesperson Cindy Duvall issued this statement:

The Mississippi Public Service Commission denied Mississippi Power permission to construct the Kemper County IGCC Project.  (See p. 2 of today’s Order, Overview Section)

If the Company agrees with certain conditions within the next 20 days, then the Commission will consider whether the Company should be granted permission to proceed with the project.

The Commission conditions seem to make it impossible for Mississippi Power to finance or construct the Kemper County IGCC Project even if the right to construct had been – or might in the future – be allowed.

We are disappointed in this decision.

We put forth the best option available to us to meet our customers’ needs with reliable and affordable energy.”

The Clarion-Ledger published an Associated Press story with the headline “Utility nixes Kemper Co. plant,” and Bloomberg Businessweek said “Mississippi Power will not build coal-fired plant.” Along with the Mississippi Business Journal, Reuters got it right: “Mississippi Power ‘disappointed’ in state ruling.”