Archive for September, 2010

The update is really more of the same in Mississippi

September 27th, 2010 Comments off

Coming Tuesday on your local PBS station is what I, in my house, have been calling “The Update.”
The master at work is Ken Burns, who has decided to update his epic documentary “Baseball” to chronicle the developments since it first aired in 1994.
According to everything that I have read about it, while Burns and co-producer Lynn Novick don’t intend to bury their heads in the sand, it will be the excitement of the pursuit that will be focused on.
The pursuit by Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds of baseball’s hallowed home run records will be shown to us as we viewers as fans experienced them at the time.
But as the time draws closer, and I become more excited about the two-night event that my wife surely is geared up to give up TV control for, the thought has zoomed through my brain about minor league baseball during the same time frame.
If Burns were to place his microscope on Mississippi for an update, he would find an amazing roller coaster that has played out in nearly every corner of the state.
From Tupelo to Greenville and Biloxi to Meridian and Jackson, the last 15 years have wreaked havoc in supervisor and city council meetings across the state. Even one mayor has been blamed for the lack of downtown development because he failed to pull the trigger in bringing minor league baseball back to his town.
Certainly Jackson is the most notable of all of the ups and downs. The city saw its 25-year history with the Double-A Texas League vanish, which was followed by a string of vagabond, gypsy independent teams for five years before Pearl managed to land one of the biggest fish in the sea.
While Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson pondered the worth of bringing back affiliated baseball with a downtown stadium that certainly would have injected much-needed energy and money into the area, Pearl swooped in and pulled the trigger.
Five years later, the area around Trustmark Park (the home of the Double-A, Southern League Mississippi Braves) is teaming with restaurants, hotels and the other big catch — Bass Pro Shop.
Sure hindsight is 20-20, but you have to give credit to the Pearl city leaders for having the vision and the guts to make a calculated business move.
Meanwhile — after a four-year vacation — Johnson is back in office in Jackson, and his downtown is still lacking a pure centerpiece to build around.
Yes, downtown Jackson is on the uptick because of people like David Watkins and Ben Allen and the completion of the convention center 18 months ago is a major feather for the cap.
Still and yet, a Trustmark Park and baseball (high school, college and professional) as well as concerts and other events would have brought hundreds of thousands of folks from the suburbs to play on a regular basis in what would now be a near 100 percent revitalized downtown.
Winners and losers?
You make the call.
The rest of the state, meanwhile, seemed ready to jump at the chance that minor league baseball could harness energy and spending in their communities. The problem is almost all were dealing with independent leagues and mostly questionable business folks, who promised the stars and spun a good yarn, but, in most cases, never produced any kind of substantial business plan.
Tupelo spent thousands to upgrade a local Dixie Youth field to accommodate nearly 3,000 fans for the Tupelo Tornado. The Tornado were members of the Big South League for one full season in 1997. In ‘98 the Big South fell apart, the Tornadoes joined the Heartland League, but a few weeks in the team couldn’t pay its players.
The dream was dead.
That same scenario played out with city spending in many other towns, like Hattiesburg, Meridian and Greenville.
Somehow, however, through seven mosquito-filled summer nights in the Delta, the Greenville Bluesmen managed to draw crowds and keep a team going in the Big South and then the Texas-Louisiana League.
Through every one of the last 15 years, and even before, Gulf Coast native and former Jackson Met (circa 1984) Barry Lyons has been fighting to bring an affiliated, preferably Southern League franchise to his home. He says he has been close a couple of times, including just before Hurricane Katrina, but to no avail.
But here we stand, in 2010. The road is littered with minor league carcasses, one success story, a giant missed exit ramp and one hitchhiker. The story might not be what Burns is looking for, but the entire tale and its impact on spending in local communities could likely be a made-for-TV movie.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at or (601) 364-1018.

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MC Law School has a lot going on

September 22nd, 2010 Comments off

It wasn’t planned, but I visited the Mississippi College Law School today and was given the grand tour by Dean Jim Rosenblatt, who has to be one of the nicest guys you will ever want to meet.

We had lunch and sat in on a seminar hosted by the Mississippi Defense Lawyers of Mississippi. Jay McDaniel and Adam Spicer of Butler Snow spoke to the students about being a young lawyer and the differences between the academic world and the real world. Students listened as the speakers talked about the need to be an advocate for the client with a real strategy and to “frame the facts” to avoid a defensive posture.

From there, Rosenblatt showed me around the ever expanding campus in downtown Jackson which has more than 500 students in its facilities everyday. From a parking lot that accomodates around 300 cars to state-of-the-art technology throughout all of the buildings, the MC Law School campus is mighty impressive.

And as an alum of Delta State, admitting much of anything good about MC is high praise. I just hope campus police never learns I was on campus.

Seriously, if you haven’t visited, you should. For more information go the MC website.

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New blog to document journey of preparing for Mississippi Blues Marathon weekend

September 20th, 2010 Comments off

As the production manager of the Mississippi Business Journal, Tacy Rayburn makes this product look fantastic every week.

But now she has taken on a new challenge — writing and running, but I don’t think she’s doing it at the same time.

A veteran of several marathons and half marathons, Tacy is in training for January’s Mississippi Blues Marathon weekend. This year, she is running in the half marathon.

Her blog ‘The Running Type’ will document her journey and give a few helpful hints as she works toward achieving another goal in her running life. She will also have tidbits and helpful hints about her real job, which is to make sure we print the MBJ every week.

She has previously run in events in Birmingham and San Diego as well as Memphis and in Jackson.

Check out her blog as she trains for 13.1 miles in early 2011!!

River Oaks wants its Canton Hospital to be bailed out by state government

September 8th, 2010 Comments off

In a statement from Tom Kirkland, legal counsel to Madison River Oaks, it was admitted today that MRO and its parent company of Health Management Associates is at a competitive disadvantage and has filed suit to have the State of Mississippi protect it from the free-market economy.

The statement comes on the heels of St. Dominic Hospital filing an appeal in Madison County Chancery Court seeking to reverse the State Health Officer’s August 26 decision to disapprove their plans to build a second and hospital Madison County.

Make no mistake about it. This has nothing to do with the future health care of the residents of Madison County.

“Madison River Oaks is ready to defend its new hospital by arguing that St. Dominic’s proposed new hospital … will have an adverse impact on the ability of Madison River Oaks to provide care to all of Madison County.”

This is not about health care, and it never has been. Today’s statement proves that Health Management Associates wants to be bailed out by the government so that it won’t have to compete in the marketplace. To this point, HMA and the state health department have argued there isn’t enough need for a second hospital in the county.

The fact of the matter is, as has been stated here before, Madison County is expected to grow by leaps and bounds over the next 20 years.

The Health Management Associates-owned Madison County Medical Center opposed St. Dominic’s plans and welcomed the recommendation. HMA broke ground in September 2009 on a new $42 million hospital for its 67 beds off Nissan Parkway in Canton which will be called Madison River Oaks next summer.
HMA does not want more competition in the area for fear that a new St. Dominic’s facility would take away its private-pay patients, leaving it with more patients insured by Medicaid, which offers lower reimbursements and is damaging to a hospital’s bottom line.

If I were part of the HMA brain trust, I would have opposed the St. Dominic plan too. On the face of it, keeping a hospital out of Madison makes good business sense.

For years, the options for the people in Madison and Ridgeland and most of Madison County have been to drive to Jackson or to drive to the old hospital in Canton.

So, a fancy, new hospital in Canton should mean all those Madison and Ridgeland folks will stay in county for health care.

But a new hospital in Canton isn’t going to change a thing.

Without the new St. Dominic Hospital, people who live in Madison and Ridgeland have the same choices they always have.

Go to Jackson or go to Canton.

My guess is 95 percent of the people who have always gone to Jackson will continue to go to Jackson.
The new Canton hospital will serve Canton and north Madison County as well as some in Yazoo, Holmes Attala and Leake counties. It will also get people from the anticipated growth in Gluckstadt.

Madison and Ridgeland will remain underserved with the exact same choices they have had for the last 60 years.

To say St. Dominic hasn’t justified its case for a certificate of need is short-sighted and disturbing.
Perhaps there is some secret information about predicted metro-area population over the next 30 years.

Lacking that, everyone should realize that the lack of a hospital in the Madison-Ridgeland communities endangers the lives of tens of thousands of people.

St. Dominic and HMA both recognize the future growth of Madison County and want in on the action.
Motive is not the question.

But in talking about money and economics, failing to provide convenient health care will damage the area’s quality-of-life image for those who might have been contemplating a family or business move to the area.

Therefore, the state health department either doesn’t recognize all of the geographical and economic realities or is blatantly placing the business interests of one group ahead of the other.

In the end, this shouldn’t be about choosing St. Dominic over HMA or the Canton facility. It should be about providing adequate health care facilities for one of the few burgeoning areas of the state.

HMA proved its business-only intent with today’s motion in court.

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Mistletoe tickets for sale — get ‘em while you can

September 1st, 2010 Comments off

Tickets for the 30th Anniversary Mistletoe Marketplace went on sale this morning. The premier Christmas showcase for many Mississippi businesses and merchants is Nov. 3-6 with all proceeds going to the Jackson Junior Auxiliary and the Mississippi Children’s Museum.

Tickets for the Thursday session usually go quickly, so now is the time to jump in. For tickets, go to the Mistletoe Marketplace website.

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Racing into the business world

September 1st, 2010 Comments off

The next great business leader in Mississippi might just be in Oxford. If determination means anything, one would believe Barnabas Kirui will be a success.

Kirui, who as a member of the Ole Miss track team took first place in the Southeastern Conference cross country championships last year, is pursuing degrees in banking and finance and accountancy

“Barnabas is just plain delightful!” said Stephanie Crosbie, senior academic counselor for the School of Business Administration for a story in the online BusinessFirst Magazine at Ole Miss. “He shows a high level of performance both in the classroom and in athletics. He is pursuing degrees in banking and finance and accountancy. These are both challenging areas, and he shows high performance. Barnabas is always cheerful, respectful, well-informed and punctual with deadlines and appointments.”

Read the whole story and enjoy.

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