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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.

Categories: capitalism, Economic development, Gov. Haley Barbour, Gov. Phil Bryant, technology Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Maybe debate should be the new football in Mississippi

November 8th, 2011 Comments off

With news of Houston Nutt losing his job as the football coach at Ole Miss, there has been renewed talk that too much money is spent on high school and college athletics.

As a huge sports fan, it’s hard for me to totally jump on that bandwagon, but it is hard to justify raising millions for college athletics when there are so many academic classes falling by the wayside because it is politically unpopular to spend money on academics.

Having said that, there is one high school activity that has a 100 percent positive impact on students and their schools as well as having a lifelong impact for the students.

That is high school debating.

Debate has nothing to do with the number of 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebackers a school may have walking the halls who may run a 4.5-second, 40-yard dash.

The fact of the matter is that smaller schools can do well if there is a higher standard of academic excellence required.

Every reason we send our children to school in the first place is what the art of debate teaches. It is what we hope is being taught in all of the classrooms.

In fact, the success of a school’s debate team, it could be argued, could be the singular measuring stick of the success of the school.

A debate team, as well as every student within a school, should be learning analytical skills. The ability to critically analyze a problem and propose workable solutions is invaluable. This is a skill that debate best teaches and high-level business people and professionals possess.

A debate team, as well as every student, should be learning research skills. From traditional library research to the Internet, debate teaches you to become a world-class researcher. Ask any college student, and they’ll tell you how valuable this is.

A debate team, as well as every student, should be learning listening and note-taking skills. Debate requires that you become a careful listener and good note taker. This helps students get better grades and learn faster.

Many of this nation’s top lawyers, business executives, doctors, engineers, and elected leaders were involved in high school debate, and for good reason. Simply put, debate-related skills help one get ahead and stay there. The power to persuade is highly respected and there is no better way to master this art than through debate.

After a recent debate competition, at least for 2011, it would appear that Hattiesburg High School, Oak Grove High School and Pascagoula High School have the most well-prepared students in Mississippi. And this was not an event just for public institutions. Even highly-regarded academic schools like St. Andrew’s and Jackson Prep were a part of the tournament.

So, cheers to the Hattiesburgs, Oak Groves and Pascagoulas of the world, who are offering a well-rounded education to their student population.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

DuPree will be no pushover against Bryant in governor’s race

August 22nd, 2011 Comments off

The first time I ever met Johnny DuPree, he had been holding court in my office for about 30 minutes before I ever walked in the door.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree

One of our reporters was using my office for the interview, and when I walked in, I was in a hurry but didn’t want to be rude. I mean he was running for governor. I thought I would listen a couple of minutes, and then slip out the door with my briefcase.

Forty-five minutes later, I was having a philisophical conversation with the Hattiesburg mayor about education in Mississippi.

I was totally entralled. On education, at least, I wasn’t sure if all of his ideas would work, but I knew he would make a decision, if he were governor, and stick by it.

It was that day, I knew he would give Clarksdale atorney Bill Luckett a run for his money for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Hell, he might even win, I thought.

Well, last night, DupRee smoked Luckett in the Democratic runoff, becoming the first black candidate to win major-party nod for the state’s top job.

DuPree, 57, advances to the Nov. 8 general election to face Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, 56, of Brandon. Bryant already has spent $3.1 million on his campaign — more than twice as much as DuPree and Luckett, combined.

For months, Bryant has been all but given the throne to the kingdom, the heir apparent to Gov. Haley Barbour.

Bryant, may win — may win. But, it won’t be because DuPree isn’t a worthy opponent.

Don’t sit back and assume he won’t be there when the confetti cannon goes, because DuPree has come to play and he didn’t leave his ball at home.

Blues Trail iPhone app is really cool; plus blues fans will love it

August 12th, 2011 Comments off

In a crazy, kind-of, cosmic way, the stars allied for me yesterday in way that would cause my wife to say, “You really are a nerd, aren’t you?”

Following the Creative Economy Summit this week at the Jackson Convention Center, I learned that the Mississippi Blues Trail mobile app is now available for download.

And it’s free.

Well, hell. You can’t beat that.

As a confessed iPhone and iPad app junkie, I was pretty happy. Combine that with a real love of the Blues, and I was in hog heaven.

It took me exactly 12 seconds to find the app and begin downloading. From there, I was pretty much worthless the rest of the day.

I spent parts of the rest of the day scrolling through the names, the maps and watching the videos that are part of the app.

The main menu consists of six main buttons:

Map — Powered by Google Maps, users can see the location of every marker and zoom in to a specific site; when they click on any marker icon, it will take them to the individual page about that marker.

Timeline — By scrolling and expanding, users can see which artists were contemporaries and what historical events were happening that were associated with blues music.

Markers — By following this link, users get several options: first an alphabetical list of markers appears; then buttons at the top of that page allow users to sort by distance from their location. This is especially helpful to travelers who want to locate nearby markers. After users go to a specific marker link, they have the option to add it to their itinerary. Each marker page includes the address of the site, the main text from the front and back of the marker and photos. There are also direct links to the iTunes store, so users can listen to a preview of an artist’s song and then purchase and download the music on the spot.

Itinerary — After markers are added to the itinerary, this page allows users to see the route that has been mapped for them, including turn-by-turn directions to each site.

People — This button shows individuals who are mentioned on markers and links back to the pages they are associated with.

Videos — Users can view a 4 ½-minute introduction video about the Mississippi Blues Trail and several videos for specific markers around the state.

All of that and it’s free.

According to the press release from the MDA, funding for the development project was provided by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division. Greenwood, Miss.-based Hammons and Associates acts as project manager for the Mississippi Blues Trail and partnered with Starkville -based Concept House in development.

So, here I go, looking for Howlin’ Wolf, my favorite bluesman. I scroll down and there he is, and with a click, there are album covers, followed by trail markers that are associated with him, of which there were 16 (gotta be a record, but don’t go checking behind me).

Then I clicked on the markers section and — hailing from Cleveland —  began to look for the marker in Dockery, between Cleveland and Ruleville on Mississippi 8. And sure enough, under Birthplace of the Blues, there it was. It detailed the Dockery Farms location as “one of the primal centers for the music in Mississippi.”

The intermittent home of the great Charlie Patton, Dockery was a place of great interest to me as a kid, and still is.

I say all of that to say that whether you are a big blues fan or not, it is a super cool app.

Get it, download it today — right now.

Did I mention that it is free.

However, it is currently available only for iPhones, which is OK since I have an iPhone.