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Archive for February, 2011

••• Update — Save yourself Jackson State, get out of the SWAC fast

February 17th, 2011 Comments off

Update … In response to Chris, who would like to see Jackson State move to Conference USA … Yes, I think that is a great idea, particularly from an attendance standpoint. JSU already outdraws many C-USA schools and, no doubt, would get bigger and bigger crowds in a Division I setting.

However, I think moving to C-USA straight from the SWAC likely isn’t to happen … First, C-USA has got to want that to happen. I suspect a move to legitimate I-AA conference needs to happen first. Maybe even going to I-AA as an independent with the intention of eventually moving to I-A.

Either way, I don’t think a Division I conference like C-USA is out of the question down the line …

••• Original Story •••

Raucous crowds in Jackson’s Memorial Stadium are the norm for a Jackson State football game, but even those crowds have dwindled in the last 10 to 15 years.
That would change if JSU would pull out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
As the SWAC’s overall ability to lure top-notch African American athletes has waned 40 years after college athletics were integrated, Jackson State’s loyalty to the HBCU conference has held it back.
The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum recently held a round-table discussion on “The Future of the SWAC” at which league officials were nowhere to be found.
“Amidst dwindling budgets, shrinking attendance, crumbling facilities and talk of school closure and consolidation, the future of the Southwestern Athletic Conference has rarely been more uncertain,” pre-discussion press releases screamed.
Unfortunately, the once-mighty SWAC is a failing business.
The Tiger athletic program, meanwhile, has been relegated to a near irrelevant status, considering the SWAC is completely irrelevant in serious conversation.
In Division I-AA, or the Football Championship Series as the NCAA calls it, no member of the SWAC is even talked about when it comes to championship play. The SWAC doesn’t participate in postseason playoffs in football, so that it can participate in an irrelevant SWAC championship game, which is cooked up to make money for the SWAC to keep the conference financially solvent, which it barely is to begin with.
Jackson State, in a market that can sustain a serious contender at the I-AA level, should jump ship and join a viable, competitive league.
The Southland Conference, the Southern Conference and the Ohio Valley Conference all offer opportunities for Jackson State that wouldn’t require much, if any, more travel costs, and would give the Tigers’ athletics programs more visibility on a national level.
As for the SWAC, it has been a dying conference for more than 20 years as programs like JSU and Southern University of Baton Rouge have continued to prop up the smaller-market schools, like Mississippi Valley and Alcorn State.
MVSU and ASU, as well as others — like Prairie View (Texas) and, to a certain extent, Grambling (La.) — haven’t been quality I-AA athletic programs for a long time and should move to Division II or III, even to the NAIA.
Jackson State, meanwhile, should look out for itself, lose the SWAC and look forward to higher attendance than it already enjoys. More attractive, nationally-relevant opponents like powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern in the Southern Conference or Stephen F. Austin and Texas State of the Southland Conference would be better.
If Jackson State wants to continue to play its in-state rivals, play them as non-conference games.
In an era where college athletics is big business, Jackson State is part of failing corporation for which there is no bailout coming.
Jackson State should save itself, because the longer it stays in the SWAC, the more irrelevant and unmarketable it will become.
It’s about business.

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

Barbour omits Republican criticism of nuclear energy plants

February 17th, 2011 1 comment

In a speech you can watch on MBJ-TV, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour hammered “the left” and “environmentalists” as the only critics of nuclear energy in America.

“They don’t like nuclear because — I don’t know why they don’t like it,” Barbour said. “They’re afraid of it.”

Barbour went on to say that nuclear energy was of “no more risk than any other type power plant.

Yet, in a Feb. 9 Associated Press story, Republican Sens. James Inhofe and David Vitter are accusing federal nuclear regulators of applying differing standards in reviewing nuclear plants’ applications for relicensing — one for when they draw strong opposition and another for when they don’t.

They say the leading examples are the Pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth, Mass., and the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt., whose owner, Entergy Corp., applied for 20-year license extensions for the two on the same day, Jan. 27, 2006. The reviews for those plants just passed the five-year mark, and are the tied for the longest it has taken the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine and approve such an application, a process that usually takes 22 to 30 months, said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

Inhofe, of Oklahoma, is the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which oversees the NRC. He’s been a longtime champion of nuclear power.

Vitter represents Louisiana, Entergy’s home state. He has received $20,000 in campaign contributions from the company since the 2002 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington-based group that tracks money in politics.

The best do-nut shops in Mississippi

February 8th, 2011 Comments off

I went to pick up donuts for the folks in the office this morning at my favorite place in Jackson, Scurlock’s.

They are always really nice and always happy to help in pumping up the overall poundage of the people at the Mississippi Business Journal.

Just kidding …

Anyway, it made me start thinking about my favorite do-nut shops.

In no particular order, here are my favorite do-nut shops in Mississippi. Let me know if you have any to add. You never know when this might turn into a feature in the MBJ, based solely on the response I receive on this blog.

Thanks.

My favorites …

Delta Cream Do-nut Shop, Cleveland

Shipley Do-nut Shop, Greenville

Scurlock Do-nut Shop, Jackson

Hudson not running for mayor of Greenville is old news

February 4th, 2011 Comments off

Imagine my surprise when I read a story stating …

Greenville Mayor Heather McTeer-Hudson says she will not seek a third term.

Hudson made the announcement this week during her annual “State of the City” speech.

Hudson succeeded Paul Artman after being elected in 2003. She was re-elected in 2007.

Hudson has not announced whether she will run for another public office.

Hudson says she felt it was the time for her to face new challenges, but will continue to help the Mississippi Delta.

Actually, in a July 27, 2009 story in the Mississippi Business Journal, Hudson said she would not seek a third term as mayor and announced she was running for state-wide office.

“I have definitely decided that I am going to run for statewide office,” Hudson said in the 2009 story. “I am very excited about being a part of the team to help move Mississippi up from the bottom rung of the national ladder, and look forward to serving in a capacity that best assists the Mississippi that is a sleeping giant. We have talent, resources and opportunities that have yet to be awakened. It’s time for us to wake up and realize our true potential.”

However, Hudson has not filed qualifying papers to run for a state-wide office.

I guess she could have changed her mind between 2009 and 2011, but she, indeed, announced her intentions not to run for a third term long before her “State of the City” speech this week.

More oil rigs in Gulf than before BP oil spill

February 4th, 2011 Comments off

According to The Times Picayune in New Orleans …

While a backlog of drilling permits in Washington continues to feed oil industry angst, new data shows that more rigs are in the Gulf of Mexico than before the BP oil spill, indicating that operators might have more confidence in the future than they are letting on.

While only 34 of the 125 rigs in the Gulf are actually working — half the total that were active before the Macondo well blowout — the vast majority of the idle rigs, particularly those slated for big-ticket jobs in deepwater, will remain under contract for the rest of 2011.

The latest tracking information from ODS-Petrodata, a Houston-based compiler of oil and gas data, shows there are 10 more rigs in the Gulf now than there were last April.

While only 34 of the 125 rigs in the Gulf are actually working — half the total that were active before the Macondo well blowout — the vast majority of the idle rigs, particularly those slated for big-ticket jobs in deepwater, will remain under contract for the rest of 2011.

In the shallow-water Gulf oil fields, where the government has never officially banned drilling but has issued few work permits in the past several months, activity has rebounded to near its pre-blowout levels.

There are 26 shallow-water rigs operating now, just 11 fewer than before the BP blowout, according to ODS-Petrodata. In December, the government issued seven shallow-water drilling permits, matching the monthly average from the year leading up to the BP disaster.

There are also signs of renewal in the more lucrative deepwater fields.

I smell a rat with nursing home lobbyist

February 4th, 2011 Comments off

Lobbyists for nursing homes are talking out of both sides of their mouth in relation to the two bills that died in committee last week that would have required nursing homes in Mississippi to carry a minimum amount of $500,000 in liability insurance.

The story, written by Clay Chandler, appears in this week’s Mississippi Business Journal and is currently on our website.

The Mississippi Health Care Association, a statewide trade group that advocates for nursing homes and personal care/assisted living facilities, has said the past few sessions that the bills mandating liability insurance are unnecessary.

“ … the overwhelming majority of nursing homes do carry liability insurance,” John Maxey, the MHCA’s legal counsel, said in an email to the MBJ.

Later in Chandler’s story, Maxey says ” … (any bill requiring liability insurance) would have a serious financial impact … on nursing homes because the insurance is so expensive.”

Maybe I missed something, but if, according to Maxey, most nursing homes already have adequate liability insurance, why would a bill mandating liability insurance make for abnormally expensive insurance?

Just a thought … what do you think?

Lawmakers obtuse to reality of pro-business legislation

February 3rd, 2011 Comments off

One of the hot topics around our office the last couple of weeks has been the beer bill, which was destined to die before it ever reached a floor vote.
Indeed, it died a quiet death last week, never making it out of committee.
We ran a cover story on the issue and followed it up with a money trail story that linked beer breweries to legislators.
We have written columns, blasting the lawmakers who had the opportunity to forward the debate.
Even this week, Clay Chandler has a story on page eight about a couple of Mississippi men who have started a craft beer business in Louisiana, never considering Mississippi, in part, because of our laws.
When we first started looking at this, I called a lawmaker friend of mine and asked why there is such animosity for this bill.
“You ever hear of the Bible Belt?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah.”
“That’s why,” he deadpanned as if I had asked the stupidest question ever.
That was the end of the conversation.
The legislation that died last week would raised the allowable alcohol content for beer in Mississippi from 5 percent alcohol by weight to 8 percent.
In our first story, we chatted with Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, who chairs the Finance Committee. He confirmed that the beer legislation stood zero chance of making it out of his committee, and that he wouldn’t introduce it.
“I really don’t want to put my committee members in an uncomfortable position in an election year.”
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who is the front-runner on the Republican side in this year’s race for governor, was quoted as saying he doesn’t “see a reasonable public benefit to increasing the alcohol content in Mississippi.”
We have been critical of those remarks as indifferent and submissive.
Bryant and Kirby have now put the word out that we (Mississippi Business Journal) are out to get them.
Yet, Kirby has not returned phone calls requesting comment and the only response we have ever gotten from Bryant on the issue is an e-mail that contained his previous quote.

The sticking point
OK, we aren’t asking about passing a bill on abortion or gay marriage or some other hot-button issue.
We are talking about craft beer and having the lowest ABW percentage in America. Our 5 percent ABW restricts what high-end beers can be sold in Mississsippi and what craft beers can be manufactured in Mississippi, even if they were to shipped out of state.
Yes, this is the Bible Belt, and yes, there are still 35 dry counties in Mississippi.
But, we are talking about creating jobs, and we are talking about creating more tax revenue in a time when jobs are scarce and government funds are limited, to say the least.
By the way, in addition to the fact that Mississippi is already selling and brewing beer, there are 23 towns and cities in those 35 dry counties which have chosen to sell alcohol. That means only rural pockets of few people are out there that really oppose the sale of liquor these days.
We and I aren’t “out to get” anyone.
I am concerned at how serious lawmakers can be so obtuse.
While this may not be Toyota or Nissan about to bring thousands of jobs to the state, the issue is about business.
Both Bryant and Kirby like to tout their BIPEC (Business and Industry Political Education Committee) rating as pro-business lawmakers.
Yet, when there is an opportunity help the business community, their actions fall woefully short.
What I would love is for Sen. Kirby and Lt. Gov. Bryant to come by our offices and visit, drink a cup of coffee and have an honest, thoughtful discussion on why a pro-business bill has been stiff-armed for three consecutive years.

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

••• UPDATE: Biggest Loser Patrick House will be featured speaker at MBJ’s EXPO

February 1st, 2011 Comments off

Patrick House, a Mississippi native and winner of NBC’s Biggest Loser, will be the featured speaker at the Mississippi Business Journal’s Mississippi Business and Technology EXPO.

The former offensive lineman at Delta State was last to step on the scales during the December finale of The Biggest Loser. House needed to have lost 177 pounds to win the $250,000 prize.

When the numbers finally stopped tumbling, the former 400 pounder had lost 182, down to 218 to win the prize. House, who now lives in Vicksburg, plans to move to South Carolina where he will teach at a school for morbidly obese teens. He plans to share his message of health and exercise and how he overcame his obesity as part of being a teacher and a coach at the school.

” I am really excited about the EXPO and the awesome possibilities it presents,” House said. “I cant begin to tell you how much The Biggest Loser has changed my life. It has ultimately saved my life. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity that was given to me.”

House went on to say that he is looking forward to meeting the winners of the Top 40 Under 40, because of what their leadership means to the future of Mississippi. He believes they can help make an impact by halting the spread of obesity in Mississippi.

According to some who have heard House speak previously, EXPO goers can expect a powerful, motivating, and inspiring speech.

Following House’s talk, The Biggest Loser champion will be available to visit, take pictures and ask questions at his booth. He will also be at the nightcap dinner for more questions and photo opportunities.

“I am so excited about this event,” House said. “Thank you for including me.”

Considering the ramifications poor health and obesity have had on Mississippi’s economy, House is the perfect person to give his inspirational message in front of many of the state’s top business leaders.

As for the EXPO, the Mississippi Business Journal happening is the state’s largest business-to-business networking event — the Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO. The event, presented by Comcast Business Class, will be held April 7, 2011 at the Trade Mart in Jackson. It is a special project of the Mississippi Business Journal.

Now in its 28th year, EXPO will feature nearly 200 exhibits and is expected to attract thousands of attendees. In addition, the event will feature multiple awards programs, free seminars, door prizes and more.

The EXPO’s hours Thursday, April 7, 2011 will be 9:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., including a Business After Hours networking party with 25 popular restaurants with live music and cash bar beginning at 5 p.m.

The Top 40 Under 40 Luncheon will also be held April 7, beginning at noon, and will recognize 40 of Mississippi’s top business and community leaders under the age of 40.

Informative seminars presented by Hinds Community College’s Eagle Ridge Conference Center and Mississippi State University Outreach Program will offer EXPO attendees and exhibitors additional opportunities for boosting their business savvy during the two-day event. From handling a tough customer to successful marketing strategies, don’t miss this chance to learn from professional trainers.

The show is open to the public, and general admission is free with a business card. For more information, call (601) 364-1000.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a sole proprietor or CEO of a large corporation, this is one event you don’t want to miss!

We hope to see you there!

For additional information about this special event of the Mississippi Business Journal, contact Tami Jones at (601) 364-1011.

What is the answer for healthcare?

February 1st, 2011 Comments off

The philosophy behind a Florida judge’s Monday ruling that the Obama administration’s health care overhaul is unconstitutional is fair.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson questioned whether the government was reaching beyond its power by requiring citizens to buy health insurance because everyone needs medical care.

Under that logic, Vinson said, the government could force Americans to buy clothes or food, siding with 26 states fighting the much-maligned measure.

But what is the answer?

What we have had isn’t perfect either.

I visited with a small business owner in Jackson a few weeks ago. He has been in his business at the same location nearly 10 years. However, he cannot afford health insurance for his family.

This is a college-educated person with two other people in his office, and they all have to fend for themselves.

How is it that if you choose to work for a larger business, you will be afforded health insurance by your employer, but if you start your own business, particularly a small business, health insurance become a luxury?

We always say that America’s economy is built on the backs of the small business owner. At what point will we break their backs?

There are no simple answers, but for everyone who has screamed and hollered for the last year about “Obamacare”, I am interested in hearing what the solution is for healthcare problems in America.

From this vantage point, it seems we are penalizing those who are working hardest to provide for themselves.

Let me know what you think …