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Southern Motion to expand in Baldwyn

December 5th, 2011 Comments off

Officials from Southern Motion, a reclining furniture manufacturer, have announced it is expanding into Baldwyn, where it will manufacture a new line of upholstered recliners. The company is locating into the 192,500-square-foot building formerly occupied by ForeFront Golf. The company says it will invest $3 million and will create 150 new jobs over the next three years. Southern Motion also has manufacturing operations in Pontotoc, where the company employs approximately 915 workers.

The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) provided assistance for the project through the Momentum Mississippi Incentives program for modifications to the building in which Southern Motion will be located. Also, the Appalachian Regional Commission and Prentiss County provided assistance for infrastructure improvements at the site, and the City of Baldwyn donated land to be used for truck access.

Founded in 1996 in Pontotoc, Southern Motion manufactures motion furniture including recliners, sofas and loveseats, sectionals and home theater furniture.

Snake-oil salesmen make a killing in the name of economic development

December 1st, 2011 3 comments

Most every little town in Mississippi — from the Tennessee line to the Gulf of Mexico — has an economic development arm.

Presidents of growth alliances, economic development associations, or whatever each town prefers to call its version, routinely make anywhere from $60,000 to more than $100,000 to lure big business to small-town Mississippi. We are talking about paying that kind of money in towns with populations ranging from 9,000 to around 20,000.

In many cases, the economic development expert has left one small town for another, hoping to accomplish in the latter what he or she failed to accomplish in the former.

It’s not necessary for these towns to pay that kind of money for an “Economic Development President” to travel, eat nice meals and make phone calls when — in most cases — the only thing the town gets in return is a fatter, more well-traveled “Economic Development President.”

While some may argue that now — in this economic climate — is the absolute best time to hire aggressive economic developers, this really is the worst time to waste money when other more productive and important departments — like fire and police services or education — are being cut to the bone or cut out all-together.

We scream about wasteful government spending on the national level. Yet, when there is duplicitous spending on the local level, we find ways to rationalize the process. There is no reason to have small-town economic developers when, just up the road, there is generally an economic development agency that serves the entire region — such as the statewide Mississippi Development Authority.

There have been calls at the national level of getting rid of large-scale economic development agencies, such as — although not specifically mentioned — the MDA.

In an op-ed to The Wall Street Journal in June, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a Tea Party stalwart dedicated to reducing the size of the government, called for the elimination of the Economic Development Administration. He says the EDA’s efforts duplicate existing federal programs.

While I am certain there is much fat to be trimmed, the MDA’s overall work is needed to facilitate economic progress.

Towns need to think about consolidating, using existing services and working regionally. The best example of regionalism at work in the last 50 years in Mississippi is in Northeast Mississippi, where companies have located in and around Tupelo with little selfish pushback in individual communities.

Toyota recognized that, and placed its new production facility near the interstate-like U.S. 78 and U.S. 45 intersection as people from as far away as Corinth, Columbus, Oxford and across the state line in Alabama will drive to Blue Springs to work.

The bottom line is that in small towns around the state, essential services like police, fire, education and infrastructure repairs are being slashed or eliminated in the name of fiscal responsibility. In the mean time, as much as $100,000 is being handed out to the president of an economic development organization who is making claims of working hard on the next big thing — when the only thing of significance that might be getting done is making sure the local farmers market has a clean working area for the spring and summer months.

Mississippi ranks next to last in nation on new measure of opportunity in America

November 28th, 2011 Comments off

The State of Mississippi has placed next to last in the nation, ranking 50th, on a new measure designed to indicate how effectively individuals living in a state can move up the economic ladders of society as compared to the rest of the country.

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippi is fat and stupid

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippi last in reading and math

>> RELATED STORY: Health, education key to Mississippi economy

The measure, called the Opportunity Index, pulls together more than a dozen data points to rank every state by awarding a first of its kind Opportunity Score. The Index is designed to empower community leaders, engaged citizens, and elected officials at all levels to become knowledgeable of the overall opportunity they are providing to those living in their region. It will be issued annually, giving leaders a way to track progress and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Developed jointly by Opportunity Nation and the American Human Development Project, the Index is available online, for free in a user-friendly and interactive format at www.opportunityindex.org.

“Opportunity Nation starts from the belief that the zip code you’re born into shouldn’t pre-determine your destiny,” said Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation. “For too long we have sliced and diced the interconnected issues of education, jobs, families, and communities – the framework underlying the idea of opportunity – into narrow silos that are disconnected. The reality is that these factors work in tandem to determine the potential success of our citizenry. That’s what the Opportunity Index provides – an unprecedented snapshot of what opportunity in America looks like at the local, state and national levels.”

MISSISSIPPI LANDS NEAR BOTTOM

Mississippi landed next to last in the nation, earning an Opportunity Score of 29.8 out of 100. Only the state of Nevada fared worse. The state ranked lower than national averages in 13 out of 16 categories. A few of the trouble areas that Mississippians struggle with include:

· Poverty Plays a Role: Mississippi has the lowest median household income in the country, at $36,796, and the highest poverty rate in the nation at 21.4%. It is one of three states in the nation where median household income is lower than $40,000 per year

· Not Part of the Information Superhighway: Mississippi has the lowest score for high-speed internet access, with only 43.5% of households having high-speed internet.

· Room for Improvement in Education: Mississippi has a significantly lower percentage of on-time high school graduates (64%) than the national average (74%). It is also falling behind in college graduates with only 19% of the population holding a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 27%.

“Having scored at or below the national average in many of the metrics used to formulate their Opportunity Score, Mississippi residents have much work to do before they can say they provide their residents with opportunities to improve their lives,” said

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Will Madison Mississippi be the next Silicon Valley?

November 11th, 2011 Comments off

Where will the Internet’s next greatest business be born?

That’s what Business Insider set out to find.

While most people immediately associate the phrase “start-up” with Silicon Valley, or New York, the fact is that there are millions of budding entrepreneurs outside of America’s existing technology centers.

As broadband spreads into rural areas and small towns across the United States, economies are emerging in places that haven’t been considered viable markets by traditional investors and hardware manufacturers looking for areas to expand.

That is about to change.

According to the United States Census Bureau, small towns, cities, and counties with 10,000 to 50,000 residents are considered “micropolitan statistical areas.”

Sometimes, these are college towns filled with young Mark Zuckerberg wannabes who have grown up using all of the gadgets that drive today’s economy.

These young Turks of suburbia can’t remember life without the Internet, and many have viable ideas that, with a little love and mentoring from a tech-savvy angel investor or two, could become successful technology businesses.

Doubt this? Consider the fact that many colleges and universities with computer science and engineering curricula require students to write mobile applications or develop engineering prototypes for various classes.

Unfortunately, more times than not, all the student is left with at the end of the semester is a good grade and pat on the back.

Science and technology programs at these schools aren’t structured to provide institutional help in finding investors or even teach tech students how to market their great ideas.

But the fact is that it’s easier to teach a computer engineer how to become a marketer than it is to teach a marketer how to become a computer engineer. All of these dormant apps and technology projects represent a huge untapped market of intellectual property. Investors just need to know where to look.

With this in mind, Business Insider dug deep into the U.S. Census data and discovered 20 micropolitan areas that meet certain demographic requirements for a budding technology economy. These factors include a high level of broadband accessibility, a sizable workforce (in relative terms), a vibrant local economy, and the presence of a small college or university.

>> CLICK HERE FOR THE LIST

Interestingly, all of these locations have unemployment rates as much as five points below the national average, and the top five have a broadband availability rate of 100 percent. Even though the list is ranked from one to twenty, all things being considered, each of these locations present equal opportunities.

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Boyce Adams either lying or uniformed when it comes to his key issue — the Kemper County Coal Plant

November 7th, 2011 Comments off

Why won’t Boyce Adams answer questions about his main talking point in the race against Brandon Presley for northern commissioner of the Mississippi Public Service Commission?

He has gone on the record several times, saying there will be no rate increase involved with the building of a $2.88 billion coal plant in Kemper County. Yet, when we called him this past week to ask him about it, he didn’t return multiple phone calls.

Boyce Adams has said there will be no rate increase invoved in the building of the Kemper County Coal Plant

In a story we ran in this week’s Mississippi Business Journal, Presley views the plant as a job-killer while Adams was quoted two weeks ago in A Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal story reports Adams as saying, “There is no rate hike associated with the project.”

RELATED STORIES …

••• KEMPER PLANT KEY IN HEATED PSC RACE

••• Bentz: The whole Kemper story is not getting told

••• Poultry association: Kemper could cost jobs in Mississippi

••• Topazi talks — ‘About a third’ really means ‘about a half’ where rate increases are concerned with Kemper Coal Plant

••• Public record or corporate secrets — PSC to decide whether public should be privy to matters concerning their pocket books ahead of corporate concerns of confidentiality

••• Kemper plant — Yes or no?

••• Presley pulling for Kemper, but admits it is a huge risk

••• Sierra Club sues to stop Kemper

••• The Kemper Project: What to expect

Brandon Presley has said he opposed and voted against the $2.8 billion Kemper Coal Plant and against the 45 percent rate hike

••• Kemper technology could be proving ground for a plant in China

••• BGR website changed following MBJ story on Kemper Plant

••• (VIDEO) Kemper County welcomes coal plant

••• (VIDEO) Anthony Topazi on the Kemper County Coal Plant

According to a 2009 document filed with the Commission, the Kemper plant could make customer rates go up by about 45 percent. Mississippi Power Company told poultry farmers that their rates would rise by 30 percent.

So, when it comes to rate hikes involved with the Kemper coal project, Adams is either lying or uninformed. In either case, that is unacceptable for someone basing his entire candidacy on the worthiness of the Kemper County Coal Plant.

From my perspective, I am sorry that we cannot provide people with a response from Adams about this issue. However, we have been calling him for nearly a week without a return phone call.

If he needs to clarify his position, he can reach me at (601) 364-1000.

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Barksdale gets it when it comes to education

November 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale — an education advocate for Mississippi

Education is always the focus of former president and CEO of Netscape Jim Barksdale. Wherever he goes these days, he is singing the praises of Mississippi education.
So, it was interesting to hear Barksdale speak last week at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob event, which came on the heels of the release of the national eighth grade reading in math scores.
Those scores have Mississippi firmly planted at No. 50 in the state rankings.
Yet, Barksdale says Mississippi children are making strides and that it is only a matter of time before the perception of Mississippi’s educational system is different.
The difference between Barksdale and other people who talk about education in Mississippi is that he has that business background to understand what, apparently, politicians do not.
Tough choices have to be made, Barksdale said, referring to teachers and administrators who aren’t living up to the standard our students deserve.
Barksdale is careful to point out that there are a significant number of teachers and administrators who are doing fantastic jobs, and believes making strides forward can be done.
He points to the Teach for America program, which has more volunteers in Mississippi than any other state.
In fact, Delta State University serves as the training ground for teachers for the entire country.
And that program is producing more good teachers and administrators than anything else Mississippi is doing right now.
Barksdale would like to see $12 million of the education budget devoted to help that program.
That’s not $12 million more dollars for education. Barksdale just wants to make sure that $12 million is allocated for that program and he believes the returns are worth the investment.
He is right.

>> RELATED VIDEO: Davis addresses Mississippi Council for Economic Education

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippians more optimistic about economy, education

>> RELATED STORY: Economist — Health, education key to economic growth

The bottom line is that teachers are the key to making the difference in Mississippi’s education.
And Barksdale would like to see a merit-based pay system to reward high-performing teachers.
Tough choices must be made and made now so that we can have better leadership for our future.
Barksdale is against having elected superintendents.
“You couldn’t run a business if you had to have elections for employees,” he said.
Appointing them is the way to go.
All of this won’t be easy and he knows that.
“Nobody likes change, but everybody likes progress.” Barksdale noted.
But he believes we can do it, because, in many cases, our public schools are achieving at a high level.
All of this takes money, and Barksdale stated many times he understands that money won’t buy an education for Mississippi’s kids, but, he said, “Money is essential, just not sufficient.”
Current levels of funding must be held firm is the message to the legislature, which should pay very close attention to Barksdale. He knows what he is doing.
It’s not just the future of the children at risk, it’s for all of us.
“Have faith in these little children,” Barksdale stresses.

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

LAST AGAIN — Mississippi ranked No. 50 in latest reading and math scores

November 1st, 2011 4 comments

We have done it again … Mississippi is ranked 50th in the nation in an education-related subject.

Will the next governor be able to improve on this score?

The good news is that Mississippi improved its score in both reading and math from 2009, but not enough to make up ground on West Virginia at No. 49. Mississippi did rank ahead of the District of Columbia in both categories. Massachusetts ranked No. 1 in both categories with scores of 46 and 51, respectively. Mississippi scores were 21 in reading and 19 in math while the national average were 32 and 34.

>> RELATED STORY: Barksdale gets it when it comes to education

>> RELATED VIDEO: Davis addresses Mississippi Council for Economic Education

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippians more optimistic about economy, education

>> RELATED STORY: Economist — Health, education key to economic growth

Below is a state-by-state look at the percentage of eighth-graders who scored at or above reading and math proficiency levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is administered by the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. Proficiency levels in both subjects are shown for both 2009 and 2011, with reading scores in the first two columns and math scores in the next two.

2009 2011 2009 2011
Jurisdictions at or above proficient in reading at or above proficient in reading at or above proficient in math at or above proficient in math
National public 30 32 33 34
Alabama 24 26 20 20
Alaska 27 31 33 35
Arizona 27 28 29 31
Arkansas 27 28 27 29
California 22 24 23 25
Colorado 32 40 40 43
Connecticut 43 45 40 38
Delaware 31 33 32 32
Dist. of Columbia 14 16 11                                17
Florida 32 30 29 28
Georgia 27 28 27 28
Hawaii 22 26 25 30
Idaho 33 34 38 37
Illinois 33 34 33 33
Indiana 32 32 36 34
Iowa 32 33 34 34
Kansas 33 35 39 41
Kentucky 33 36 27 31
Louisiana 20 22 20 22
Maine 35 39 35 39
Maryland 36 40 40 40
Massachusetts 43 46 52 51
Michigan 31 32 31 31
Minnesota 38 39 47 48

>>MISSISSIPPI 19 21 15 19
Missouri 34 35 35 32
Montana 38 42 44 46
Nebraska 35 35 35 33
Nevada 22 26 25 29
New Hampshire 39 40 43 44
New Jersey 42 45 44 47
New Mexico 22 22 20 24
New York 33 35 34 30
North Carolina 29 31 36 37
North Dakota 34 34 43 43
Ohio 37 37 36 39
Oklahoma 26 27 24 27
Oregon 33 33 37 33
Pennsylvania 40 38 40 39
Rhode Island 28 33 28 34
South Carolina 24 27 30 32
South Dakota 37 35 42 42
Tennessee 28 27 25 24
Texas 27 27 36 40
Utah 33 35 35 35
Vermont 41 44 43 46
Virginia 32 36 36 40
Washington 36 37 39 40
West Virginia 22 24 19 21
Wisconsin 34 35 39 41
Wyoming 34 38 35 37
DoDEA 39 39 36 37

Groupon’s losses narrowing

October 21st, 2011 1 comment

As we talked about several months ago, Groupon ain’t as sweet as many would make it out to be. … So take a look at this story today that says Groupon reported nearly breaking even in its third quarter, an important milestone as it prepares the final leg of its long journey toward an initial public offering.

Despite news of Iris, Apple’s iPhone 4S still a coup for C Spire

October 21st, 2011 1 comment

Boy just when you thought you had things figured out, a girl named Iris kicks you in the teeth,

With everyone in Mississippi and beyond jumping up and down about Apple’s new iPhone 4S now being a part of the C Spire stable, you would think nothing could keep folks from smiling.

Then along came Iris. One of the cool things about the iPhone 4S was Siri. That’s  the natural languages understanding app with the cool woman’s name and voice that answers your questions and is supposed to be the advantage that the iPhone 4S has, not only over other models of the iPhone, but every other mobile device on the planet.

But according to a recent report, a programmer spent just eight hours creating a similar app for the Android phone. Oh, and he named her Iris.

But that doesn’t mean Ridgeland-based C Spire’s announcement this week that the country’s eighth-largest phone company will start selling the iPhone 4S in a few weeks isn’t big news. It’s still a huge deal, and it still gives it a bigger edge over its major competitors in Mississippi — AT&T and Verizon. However, what it does do is make you realize the difference in the technology world between good and great isn’t very far apart.

Having said that, Apple still developed the technology first and delivered it first with the iPhone 4S.

And that means Apple is still the king of the mountain, because even more important a tech guy that can roll out a look-alike app in eight hours, is someone at the top of the organization with vision.

That’s what the Android makers are missing.

At the end of the day, Android is still playing catch-up to the iPhone 4S.

In a week when the little phone company from Mississippi got the attention of the nation’s tech business watchers, C Spire comes out on top, having shown its own unique vision for the future.

Parlor Market releases statement about the death of Noone

October 14th, 2011 Comments off

In the wake of the news that Craig Noone, the chef and owner of Parlor Market on Capitol Street, was killed in a car accident around 1 a.m. Friday at the intersection of Capitol and West streets, officials with the business have released a statement and referred all questions to Michael Rejeban.

Parlor Market chef and owner Craig Noone, who was killed in an automobile accident early Friday morning in Jackson.

See Clay Chandler’s Magnolia Marketplace about Noone from early Friday.

The statement reads:

Statement on the Passing of Jackson Restaurateur Craig Noone

Craig Noone, chef and owner of Parlor Market Restaurant in Downtown Jackson, passed away on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. He was 32 years old.

Craig was foremost a very special person and friend, and an extremely talented chef. He had the courage to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant in the heart of Downtown Jackson. Even more, he was an incredibly giving person and touched countless lives with his generosity. He brought great happiness and joy to his family and friends and will be missed by many.

Through Craig’s efforts, Parlor Market, which opened in Sept. 2010, has become one of Mississippi’s premier restaurants. He was a true visionary who saw potential where others didn’t and understood that relationships are the key to the success of any business.

A Jackson native, Craig had a deep love of the city and especially Downtown, and took a keen interest in helping to ensure its revitalization. But most important, Craig was a true friend to all who knew him. While tragic, Craig’s death serves as a testament to the meaning of true friendship, drive, desire and love for those we know.

Parlor Market will be closed through the weekend. Funeral arrangements are pending.

••• Check back later for more information