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Archive for September, 2011

I talked with politician with a mind of his own

September 30th, 2011 Comments off

Toeing the party line has gotten to be the way we do business these days.
But it was refreshing to hear there are some, at least one, that is bucking the trend to follow along like a herd of cattle.
I was talking to someone this week who is running for office. He was giving me the general breakdown that he feels good about where he is in the campaign and that he thinks he can win when Nov. 8 rolls around.
The thing that was refreshing, though, is that when his party tried to manhandle him into running his campaign in the same cookie-cutter format it was having the rest of its candidates run, he said no.
Apparently, the dinosaurs in charge were not particularly happy with his decision.
“When all is said and done,” he said. “I have to make decisions based on the overall good of my district. If I start cowtowing now to the will of the established system, we will never move forward, as a district and then as a state and a society.”
He is absolutely right.
One-size fits all really doesn’t.
What works in New York doesn’t necessarily work in Mississippi and what works in Gulfport doesn’t necessarily work in Greenville or Hattiesburg or Columbus.
We need more people in office who will think for themselves and make decisions based on the good of the people and the state and not, specifically, (Dean Kirby) on the impact said decisions might make on their colleagues during the next election cycle.

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

Netflix is taking the bull by the horns while newspapers wait for their base readers to die

September 20th, 2011 Comments off

In a recent blog post, I found it interesting what one media observer related about the newspaper industry in a comparison with Netflix …

Unfortunately for newspapers and other publishers with legacy businesses, they have to make the transition somehow, and the glacial pace that most of the industry has taken — which amounts to waiting for existing print subscribers to die of natural causes and thereby solve the problem — isn’t really cutting it. They can change quickly and risk the kind of customer uproar that Netflix is experiencing, or they can move slowly and be disrupted. At least Netflix is trying to disrupt itself instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

You can read the entire blog post here.

Where will our rank be after the next four years?

September 15th, 2011 1 comment

Bob Barker

Taking a page from the “Price is Right” game show, maybe the Oct. 14 gubernatorial debate at The Mississippi College School of Law should be named “The Rank is Right.”
When gubernatorial candidates Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and Hattiesburg Democratic Mayor Johnny DuPree square off in Jackson, the scheduled 90-minute, made-for-TV event could be boiled down to three questions.
>> Mississippi is currently ranked 50th in the country in healthcare. Where will it be after your four years (then eight years) in office?
>> Mississippi is currently ranked 50th in the country in education. Where will it be after your four years (then eight years) in office?
>> Mississippi is currently ranked 50th in the country in per capita personal income. Where will it be after your four years (then eight years) in office?
No double talk. No long-winded, heart-tugging stories about children or old people or family values or Tea Party economics.
We just want short answers.
Responses should be no more than two numbers.
When asked the question, we will be looking for a response like, “42” or “35” or “27”.
It will be easy to keep score at a debate like this. Plus, after four years, there will be no doubt whether Candidate A or Candidate B has been successful during his time in office.
Maybe Bob Barker or Drew Carey could moderate.

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

Bynum will be remembered for great, thought-provoking work

September 4th, 2011 1 comment

News that former Mississippi Business Journal editor and co-owner Buddy Bynum passed away this weekend is dispiriting for our newsroom. Bynum has long been held as the best and most thoughtful editor the paper has had in in its 30-plus year history.

James L. "Buddy" Bynum was editor of the Mississippi Business Journal from 1993-1997.

As the new editor of the MBJ three years ago, I began to go through old copies of the publication to see what had been done in the past. It didn’t take long to figure out that trying to match the writing and thought-provoking work of Bynum was going to be a work in vain.

He was the straw that stirred the drink, and if there was anyone that helped put the MBJ on the map, it was, without doubt, Buddy Bynum.

Bynum was with the MBJ from 1993-1997 and then served as the editor of his hometown paper — The Meridian Star — from 2000-2005. He also served as an aide to Gov. Haley Barbour and former Sen. Trent Lott.

There will be many great moments in the years to come at the Mississippi Business Journal, but the memory of Bynum will serve as a great reminder of what every journalist that walks through these doors must live up to in the future.

We will all miss Buddy immensely.

Changes hit Laurel Leader-Call but newspaper industry holds important place

September 2nd, 2011 1 comment

Every time, I have a tough day at work, I take a look at the trailer for “Page One” about the New York Times, and I get a little more energized. While I haven’t seen the complete documentary yet, I understand that regardless of what happens in new world media, serious newspapers will always have a place in this world.

Do we really think Facebook is going to cover your local Board of Supervisors meetings?

I think not.

So, Friday, when I saw the Laurel Leader-Call is changing from seven-day to a four-day publication, I was saddened, but I know — deep down — that newspaper will be OK.

The economy and new world media may have eaten away at profits during the years, but do we really think the local TV station is going to cover everything that Laurel has going on? Oh yeah, there is no local TV station in Laurel. Are all of the folks on Facebook in Laurel going to hold the mayor accountable with investigative stories? I’m saying no.

And in 140 characters or less, will the tweeters of Laurel be able to handle the news of the day?

The fact is your local newspaper, while it may not be The New York Times or the Chicago Tribune or the Washington Post, it probably does a pretty good job of keeping you up on the real news affecting the area readership. Reading the stories about the board of supervisors or the local police department may not always be riveting, but it’s the local newspaper everyone calls when they feel like there is a fly in the ointment of local government.

Newspapers, like the Laurel Leader-Call, are a necessary part of our everyday lives. Don’t believe Facebook or any other new media will take its place.

Barbour’s horse needs a trip to vet before he bets our money

September 2nd, 2011 Comments off

From the MBJ staff

Solar energy may be the wave of the future, but Mississippi should be careful where it comes to being an investor in new companies promising the moon — er, sun.
Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts went bankrupt last month, leaving that state hanging after an investment of more than $40 million of taxpayer dollars in the business.
Then, last week, solar panel maker Solyndra’s bankruptcy left stakeholders and industry observers wondering what the firm’s dramatic collapse will mean for the solar industry. At the same time Solyndra was announcing its bankruptcy, Gov. Haley Barbour was announcing his proposed deal to invest $75 million to bring Calisolar, of Sunnyvale, Calif., to Columbus. He said the company will create 951 direct full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $45,000 plus benefits. Calisolar’s Columbus facility will produce solar silicon.
Stion, which will make make thin-film solar panels in Hattiesburg, was awarded a $75-million loan from the Mississippi Legislature and plans a Sept. 16 ribbon cutting. The company says it feels comfortable in the marketplace with its thin-film technology.
By all accounts Solyndra was doing well, building a 1-million-square-foot factory and employing 1,100 workers to make its cylindrical CIGs solar panels.
But, while the company that “had been hailed as a poster child for the cleantech economy” fell apart, “its failure doesn’t spell the end for a robust solar market,” say investors and solar officials.
However, the company’s failure should make Mississippi officials much more leery about the millions of dollars they have doled out trying to bring jobs to a crippled Mississippi economy.
Mississippi has also awarded a large loan — $50 million — to solar company Twin Creeks, which will manufacture crystalline silicon solar panels in Senatobia. If Calisolar’s $75-million loan is approved, Mississippi’s total solar investment will come to $175 million.
You could say Barbour and other industry recruiters for Mississippi are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Yet, there are still many serious questions that must be answered as we loan piles of money into alternative energy startups.
Alain Harrus, a venture capitalist with Crosslink Capital, which is invested in another government-backed solar company, Abound Solar, told the San Francisco Business Times that Solyndra was a well-run company, whose demise was inevitable.
“They executed as well as one can be expected to on this type of scale,” he said. “The technology — it’s a success. Commercially, they got caught in a down-slope on the pricing. At the end of the day you can’t ship things if it costs more to ship than what you can get money for.”
The fact that Solyndra did nearly everything correctly and still went bankrupt should be terrifying for Mississippians.
Investment in solar power shouldn’t stop, but we have to be very careful to make sure the money of all Mississippians is spent well and that government can see the forest for the trees.
The real question is, what is the forced liquidation value of these companies? Mississippians have a right to know. If these companies fail and a fire sale occurs, how could taxpayers recover compared to what they put in? If the numbers are close to the loans amounts, these might not be bad deals. If not, then we could be in serious trouble.

An independent review of Choctaws unlikely?

September 2nd, 2011 Comments off

Under the cloud of  scrutiny, the casino resort owned by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians says it has hired a new auditor to provide independent review of its business and finances.
Hang on a minute.
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has hired a new auditor to provide independent review of its business and finances?
How can anyone hired by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians provide and independent review of the questioned finances?
PriceWaterhouseCoopers is no longer the auditor. The tribe announced in a news release that it hired BDO USA.
However, BDO USA will still be paid by the Choctaws, meaning there will be some loyalty factor built in to whatever BDO comes up with in the next few weeks or months.
Unfortunately, the Choctaws have lost any benefit of the doubt here.
Pearl River Resort and Casino has been under intense scrutiny in recent months, including an FBI raid in July. The tribe also is involved in a bitter election dispute and Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the tribe’s bonds to junk bond status.
Beasley Denson, the chief, said in the past there’s nothing to worry about from the FBI investigation because the books were checked by an independent firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
So, why should we believe them now?

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