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Archive for October, 2010

A man for all seasons; LaForge book the latest achievement

October 29th, 2010 Comments off

You don’t have to go far to find someone to say something nice about Mississippi’s Bill LaForge.

The Cleveland native is past national president of the Federal Bar Association and is a frequent speaker on the topics of government and Congressional relations, communicating with Congress, the Congressional hearings process and the Congressional appropriations process.

And his recently released book titled “Testifying Before Congress” is gaining accolades from across the country.

In a recent visit with Jim Rosenblatt, dean of the Mississippi School of Law, you didn’t have to wonder about his feeling on LaForge.

We chatted about Bill, his book and his positive impact for Mississippi on the outside world.

Just about before I could make the three-block walk back to my office from MC, there was a e-mail in my in box from Rosenblatt about the book.

“‘Testifying Before Congress’ is a superlative work. The book has the depth of background and the precision of practicality to make it a helpful treatise for the practitioner as well as a thoughtful textbook for use by professors in classes on public policy or Congressional oversight.  It should be on the bookshelf of anyone who follows the business of Congress.”

High praise from someone who knows.

The book is basically a how-to text on  surviving the mine field of congressional testimony.

LaForge prepares potential witnesses for every eventuality, including using actual briefings and rehearsals used by such agencies as USAID, NASA and the IRS as well as corporate and NGO examples.

He was destined to achieve

Many would have told you he was destined for great things when he was the student body president at Delta State nearly 40 years ago.
Then, again, there are probably some from his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity days at DSU who would tell you differently.

Seriously, LaForge is one of the great talents to ever come out of the Delta, and he has never forgotten who he is or where he came from.

LaForge has always been quick to give back to his community and quicker to come back for a visit every once in awhile, including just a few weeks ago.

A shareholder at Winstead Sechrest & Minick, P.C., specializing in government relations/public policy, LaForge has been a main figure on Capitol Hill as chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and culminated his government career as chief legislative counsel and chief of staff to Sen. Thad Cochran. Previously he served as Congressional liaison for the Peace Corps and as a legislative assistant to Mississippi Rep. David Bowen.

He’s been all over the place — studied international law at Cambridge, received fellowships to study government and public policy in the European Union and at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

He’s also an avid runner and a triathlete. He has completed 61 marathons, including 24 Boston Marathons, and he has logged more than 65,000 miles running.

Oh yeah, and I haven’t mentioned that he plays guitar in an oldies rock-and-roll band in his spare time.
So, he’s amazingly intelligent, determined, an accomplished writer, a great athlete and he’s the perfect guy to have over to play your fall deck party.

How much more could you possibly want out of someone?

Well, for years, there has been been a push by many, particularly in the Delta, to get his talents back in Mississippi.

Specifically, many would love to see LaForge come back as president of DSU.
Even with the current economic conditions surrounding higher education in Mississippi, LaForge would be a positive force for future for the entire state.

But DSU has a president. So, a LaForge move back home will have to wait a little longer.

In the mean time, “Testifying Before Congress” is another example of this home-grown product providing a great example of and for Mississippi.

Pick it up and check it out.

A little morning Hobnobbing …

October 28th, 2010 Comments off

Early mornings are the best time to go to annual Hobnob event sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council.

I spent about an hour and a half there this morning before the masses descended on the grounds around the Mississippi Agricultural Museum.

In general, Hobnob is one of my favorite events of the year because it is such a great opportunity to visit with business leaders around the state in an informal, laid back setting. The weather, while sometimes windy, is usually perfect and the program is captivating.

Blake Wilson and his crew do a great job and should be commended for the work they do to pull this off. I recently had lunch with Blake and asked him about preparation for the event, expecting moans and sighs about how hard it is.

Instead, he lauded his colleagues with lots of praise, saying Sandy Maxwell, Scott Waller, Ron Hicks and the rest of the staff have the prep work down to a science. He did admit the hard work that goes into putting Hobnob together, but he feels their formula for success is working and the process in place works.

I couldn’t agree more.

Flawed judgment

October 26th, 2010 Comments off

Despite what was reported as a recent “no-confidence” consideration by the school’s faculty senate, The state College Board has voted to extend the contract of Delta State University President John M. Hilpert.

The board also extended the contract of University of Southern Mississippi President Martha Saunders.

The new contracts are for four years.

Hilpert’s tenure at DSU has been controversial and many in Cleveland and within the university believe he has been divisive and had a negative impact on the school as well as having a negative economic impact on the town.

Who knows what went on behind closed doors, but acknowledging Hilpert’s approximate six years at the helm as a success is flawed judgment.

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Quit hatin’ on the bear …

October 22nd, 2010 Comments off

OK, let’s get something straight from the very beginning.

It didn’t matter what leaders at Ole Miss did in regard to selecting an on-field mascot for the athletics teams, a lot of people weren’t going to be happy.

That the black bear is the choice is of no consequence.

Did y’all really want the on-field mascot to be Hotty Toddy or a Land Shark?

Yeah, Ackbar from Star Wars would have been funny and cool, though.

Still and yet, the real issue is the term “on-field”.

Ole Miss’ moniker isn’t changing. It is the Rebels.

The Ole Miss Rebels, not the Black Bears.

It’s no different than the Philadelphia Phillies having the Phillie Phanatic as their on-field mascot. When the Phanatic was introduced in 1978 as the official mascot of the team, there was no freaking out and running naked through the streets … at least about that issue.

The Phanatic — like Wally the Green Monster for the Boston Red Sox — is a fun, loveable creature to hang around and entertain fans at games, much like the original San Diego Chicken.

The bear (notice the lower case ‘b’) is the same.

It’s there for your kids to love and have their picture taken with in The Grove before the game.

It’s there to hang out with the cherleaders and do goofy stuff on the field.

It’s there to jump off a mini-tramp and perform nasty slam dunks at basketball games or play silly tricks on umpires at baseball games.

The bear is named Rebel, which doesn’t make the bear a Rebel. Obviously the Phantatic is not a Phillie and Wally is not a Red Sox.

Get a grip people!

Highbeam: McCullough pinch hits with tech news …

October 20th, 2010 Comments off

By Amy McCullough, from the MBJ newsroom

Ever wish you could get Internet access to newspaper or magazine articles that published before 2006? Most media outlets only have their stuff archived back that far. If you want something from the ‘90s or ‘80s, you’re in for some quality time with microfiche at the Eudora Welty Library.

But not with Highbeam.com, my favorite new research tool.

Formed in 2004, Highbeam can instantly retrieve news and magazine articles from as far back as 1984. (At least that’s the oldest date I’ve seen.)

Information from “more than 6,500 credible publications,” such as U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post, The Economist, Popular Mechanics, Newsweek, Pediatric News, The Boston Globe, Oxford University Press, Advertising Age, Los Angeles Business Journal, Crain’s Chicago Business, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Harper’s, Entrepreneur Magazine and the Associated Press, is available on Highbeam.

And guess who else? The Mississippi Business Journal ! It’s nice to know we’re officially among the ranks of credible publications.

However, as is the case so often in life, you do get what you pay for. A 30-day free trial is available, but an annual Highbeam subscription is about $200.

Then again, accuracy is priceless.

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Hey Trustmark! Not so fast my friend …

October 20th, 2010 Comments off

In a story MBJ banking reporter Ted Carter reported today, Trustmark Bank wasn’t as in the dark about the potential reversal of intentions of Cadence Bank a couple of weeks ago …

According to the proxy statement Cadence Bank filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission Wednesday, there is a lot more to the story.

Read Ted’s story for more information.

STARKVILLE — A proxy statement Cadence Bank filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission Wednesday sheds new light on one of the most high-profile reversals of the year – Cadence’s scrapping of a publicly announced “definitive” agreement to be acquired by Trustmark National Bank of Jackson in favor an offer by Houston banking investment group Community Bancorp LLC.
Executives of Starkville-based Cadence say a take-it-or-leave-it deadline set by Trustmark National on an acquisition offer led the bank’s and its board to prematurely reject an offer by rival suitor Community Bancorp Corp.

The proxy statement details the offers and counter offers that led to the jilting of Trustmark and its previously accepted offer of $20.62 per share of Trustmark shares. The transaction was valued at approximately $23.8 million, or $2 per Cadence common share.

Hey kids! I’m going to the children’s museum first

October 18th, 2010 Comments off

As a father of three children, ages 6 and under, I have to say I am probably more excited about the upcoming opening of the Mississippi Children’s Museum than most.
Then, when a representative from the museum showed up at our offices last week to invite us to the Oct. 27 Media Day Tour of the facility, I felt guilty that I am going to experience the new museum before my kids get to.
But, oh well… they’ll get over it.
Seriously, the impending official opening of the museum to the public on Dec. 4 will be a high-water mark for Jackson as well as Mississippi.
In Jackson, the museum — located adjacent to the Mississippi Natural Science and History Museum at LeFleur’s State Park — solidifies the Lakeland exit off I-55 as Adventure Center.
Within a mile, there will be the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the Mississippi Agriculture Museum as well as the children’s museum and the natural science museum.
For Mississippi, the December opening marks the second children’s museum for the state with the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport.
It also makes the job of folks marketing Jackson and Mississippi — the economic development people — so much easier.
“Please come to our state,” they will say. “Oh, and visit our new Mississippi Children’s Museum, a 40,000-square-foot structure with 20,000 square feet of exhibit space arranged around the five themes of Mississippi — heritage, health & nutrition, literacy, cultural arts and science & technology.”
Throw in a comment like, “Bring your children to Jackson and the Mississippi Children’s Museum where they will be given a unique and exciting educational experience that ignites and inspires a thirst for discovery, knowledge and learning.”
Who wouldn’t want to go?
Heck, even without children, the museum will be worth visiting.
Did I mention that I am going to visit the museum next week before my children get to? They are going to be so jealous.
Oh yeah, the children, and did I mention economic development?
“Please locate your industry in Mississippi,” they will say. “There’s lots of reasons why you should, but think about your family. There is so much to do here, and your children will always enjoy a new adventure at the Mississippi Children’s Museum.”
Thanks to the Junior League of Jackson and all of those who have made this dream a reality for so many. Your work for all of Mississippi is appreciated.

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

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Entergy coincidence? Likely not …

October 12th, 2010 Comments off

Does anyone else find it interesting that less than 24 hours ahead of it announcing the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a probe into its business practices, Entergy Corporation pledged $1 million to the city of New Orleans?

New Orleans Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, Chair of the New Orleans City Council Utility Committee, announced Monday that Entergy New Orleans, Inc. is pledging $1 million to the City of New Orleans to support community programs. The donation will specifically benefit the New Orleans Recreation Department and the New Orleans Council on Aging.

As part of the $1 million pledge, NORD will receive $650,000 and the Council on Aging will receive $350,000. The contributions will help in efforts to improve facilities, programs and services that enhance the quality of life for youth and elderly in New Orleans.

Wow!

Surely Entergy isn’t trying to deflect attention away from the investigation into the company’s transmission systems and fuel purchasing practices.

I guess we will have to wait and see what comes of the investigation.

Still, the $1 million smells like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledging $100 million to Newark, NJ school system the Friday before a not-so-flattering-movie about Facebook “Social Network” was released later that day.

Accountability or not?

October 11th, 2010 Comments off

Which is it?

On one hand, Travis Childers is hammering his opponent for failing to participate in a debate … Then, you read that Mr. Childers doesn’t want to face the media in his “Putting North Mississippi First” tour this week.

It appears a lot of candidates are wanting to duck the media these days in an attempt to duck questions integral to the basic learning curve for the voters … Interesting how that works for both Deomcrats and Republicans.

We always want the other guy to be held accountable … In this case, just ask Mr. Childers.

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Media: We are easy targets

October 11th, 2010 Comments off

Somewhere along the line, it’s lost that I am a member of the media. Either that or the e-mail lists I wind up on are meant to send a message.

In actuality, I suspect, neither is the case. But I get a chuckle out of the stuff that gets sent around with particular venom and general mean spirit about the media.

We in the media, according to most of the e-mails, are anti-America, anti-military, anti-business, anti-family … basically, just “anti.”

One I got not so long ago referenced the death of a Medal of Honor winner, who lived in Boise, Idaho.
The e-mail goes into great detail about his experience in Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War.
Ed Freeman, against orders, flew his helicopter into a firefight to save pinned-down infantrymen. Actually, he went back and forth 13 times for men that would have perished otherwise.
Then, the kicker … “I bet you didn’t hear about this hero’s passing in the media.”

But the e-mailer was sure we had all seen lots of reports of celebrity antics and brushes with the law.
The final line read, “Shame on the American Media!”

Lazy and presumptive

Well, this kind of stuff drives me crazy. So, I immediately began to look up Mr. Freeman with this new, fancy technological tool, called “Google.”

After exhaustive research of the woeful American media archives, and with my (media-hat-wearing) head hung low, I responded to the e-mail:

Just a quick search shows that the media did a fine job in covering this story, below are three stories that I found. I am sure there are more, including local television and radio, which I did not look for.
Even a Mississippi post office may be named after this war hero, I read in a newspaper account.
I believe people are too quick to jump on the media. If folks will take about three seconds to look for it, generally you will find that the media has done its job.

And yes, this is a great story about a great American that served his country well, and I am glad the media did a good job in reporting it. Best, Ross.

I included several links to the stories. Three seconds. That’s all it took.

I know the media is an easy target and sometimes rightfully so as Howard Kurtz pointed out in his book “Media Circus: The Trouble with America’s Newspapers.”

Kurtz, the long-time Washington Post media critic, who last week jumped to the web’s “Daily Beast,” points out a bias toward bad news, and an emphasis on scandal.

But, by and large, the media — the middle-of-the-road media — does it right most of the time.
While we might not like everything we read or see, the media serves a great purpose in our society, which we would miss dearly were it not available in an objective form. I only hope we at the MBJ can live up to the other great journalism being practiced in every form of the profession.

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