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UMMC can help pull state from historic economic woes

March 25th, 2011 Comments off

Colleges and universities, in general, are great economic engines for the cities and communities they are in.
Just ask people in places like Lorman or Cleveland or Columbus what life would be like without Alcorn State, Delta State and Mississippi University for Women (a.k.a. Reneau University).
Combine the economic development of a college setting with medical training for a state with a shortage of doctors and University of Mississippi Medical Center is nearly a perfect vehicle for Mississippi to recharge its economy.
Already, UMMC is the second largest employer (nearly 9,000 employees) in the state, behind Northrup Grumman.
However, when approached with economic impact numbers recently, many in the Mississippi Legislature were not aware of what UMMC meant to the business of Mississippi.
According to numbers provided by UMMC, it has an annual economic impact of $2.1 billion on the state with more than 17,000 jobs generated. It also pays more than $216 million in taxes to the state every year.
There are detractors, and there are those who would play down the impact UMMC has on economic development, and there are those who would argue UMMC creates a competitive imbalance with private hospitals throughout the state.
Neither of those opinions hold a lot of water.
Healthcare is big business in Mississippi and across the United States.
Some numbers show that 17 percent of the GDP is healthcare.
In Mississippi, as we know, the health of our citizens is rated as the worst in the country. We lead the nation in obesity.  Mississippi also ranks first, uh last, in the nation for high blood pressure, diabetes and adult inactivity.
The Delta and Southwest Mississippi are Ground Zero for those problems, which is also Ground Zero for a shortage of doctors, which, not so amazingly, Mississippi leads the nation in.
UMMC could be the answer on multiple levels. The medical school has a plan for putting more doctors on the ground in rural areas.
That helps the economy, including employment, income, retail sales, and sales tax collection.
In many Mississippi Delta counties already, the hospital is the No. 1 employer, and that’s with a shortage of doctors.
The bottom line is more doctors means more money, more jobs and a better economic outlook, as well as a better health care outlook for Mississippi.
In the end, that means there is less money spent on the health-related illnesses we have in Mississippi.
If UMMC can do all it is doing now, just think what it can do if the legislature, actually were to view it as the economic engine that it is.
It boggles the mind.

Contact MBJ editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or call him at (601) 364-1018.

McCain takes aim square at Mississippi catfish farmers

March 11th, 2011 Comments off

Bennie Thompson ain’t talking about catfish, but Sen. John McCain is.
We have asked Congressman Thompson to comment on the new catfish inspection program that critics say threatens to derail U.S. trade relations with Vietnam. He has never returned a phone call or an e-mail.
However, last week, we ran a story on our website about the catfish industry’s reaction to a proposal by McCain to repeal that very same law, and the McCain camp was on the phone.
They wanted to know where the story came from, and why we were running it and why we didn’t have a response from Sen. McCain.
That’s what I am looking for, I said.
This whole thing has boggled my mind from the beginning and I wanted someone to explain why there would be any consideration for choosing Vietnamese fish in a trade debate ahead of U.S. catfish.
What the McCain camp sent was a canned, rambling floor statement, which read, in part, “Mr. President, Section 11016 is nothing more than the latest effort by members of Congress serving the special interests of the catfish industry in their home states. A similar protectionist tactic was tried in the 2002 Farm Bill when many of these same members slipped in language that made it illegal to label Vietnamese catfish (‘pangasius’) as catfish in U.S. retail markets.”
Mississippi’s Thad Cochran also responded to interview requests, saying, “My initial reaction to legislation to repeal the USDA catfish inspection authority is that it is uncalled for.
“I will oppose it,” Cochran continued. “The Department of Agriculture should be given a chance to finally carry out the inspection authority Congress gave it in 2008. This inspection process would help ensure that imported catfish are as safe and nutritious as the catfish produced in Mississippi and elsewhere. We do not have that assurance today The current federal inspection regime involves testing a very small percentage – only 2 percent — of the catfish imported into this country. While I regret the long, drawn-out process to implement this USDA mandate, I believe it remains important.”
Unfortunately, neither Cochran nor McCain’s positions do a lot to help the Mississippi catfish farmers, mostly conservative and mostly Republican, who are going broke.
As someone without a dog in the fight, other than being from a state that produces farm-raised catfish, it would appear Sen. McCain is more concerned about trade with Vietnam than the economy in the South, specifically.
Mississippi catfish growers have taken a huge financial hit from the import of catfish products, according to statistics from U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In recent weeks, we reported that Itta Bena-based Heartland Catfish is making cutbacks. Many other independent farmers are turning over their ponds to go back to row crops, and this has been going on for years now.
It won’t be too long before there isn’t a debate to have as all of the catfish ponds around the South will have dried up.
We won’t take it for granted, like we do now, of the all-you-can-eat buffets across Mississippi and the rest of the Southeast.
It will become something we eat when we go and catch the big one; you know, the one that has grown up in the Mississippi River where it has survived on a constant diet of sludge and pollutants.
You know, kind of like the fish the Vietnamese importing to us now.

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

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

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?

••• 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 …

House wins Biggest Loser, Delta State takes shot at national title

December 15th, 2010 Comments off

Patrick House, a former offensive lineman at Delta State, was last to step on the scales last night at The Biggest Loser finale. The Brandon native 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 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 teach and a coach at the school.

But, first, House’s former football team, Delta State plays Minnesota-Duluth Saturday for the NCAA Division II national championship.

If you believe in karma, you gotta believe the Statesmen will win their second-ever national championship.

Congratulations to House and good luck Statesmen, uh Okra.

Mississippi rated as least healthy state, again

December 8th, 2010 Comments off

As I sat in my office and ate an orange and drank my water this morning, I was really wanting big plate of eggs, bacon, grits toast and coffee. Then, I read that Vermont has been ranked as the healthiest state in the nation for the fourth consecutive year.

According to the Associated Press, the 2010 American’s Health Rankings released Tuesday put Massachusetts in second place, followed by New Hampshire with Mississippi as the least healthy state.

Yep, there we are again, last. … There is certain to be a press conference somewhere in Mississippi this week where Gov. Haley Barbour will talk of the need to cut more of the state budget, but we have made no concerted effort to put a dent in the obesity epidemic.

Yes, the 2010 Global Obesity Summit was held in Jackson a few weeks ago. There was lots of buildup prior to the event, boasting of how Mississippi is taking a lead role in the fight against fat. But when the dust had settled, there was no announcement of plans made or actions taken.

As a society in Mississippi, we like to talk about the economy and health care and taxes and the irresponsibility those in charge use in dealing with these matters. We like to think that if you just work hard and keep your nose clean, and balance your checkbook, everything will be OK.

But we turn a blind eye to the economic impact of obesity on our state. Somehow, that’s not our problem. Those poor fat folks should just stop eating the junk from the food stamps we give them.

While we rant on about self restraint, there’s a snowball rolling down a mountain straight at us.

Mississippi’s estimated annual healthcare cost attributed to adult obesity (in 2003 dollars) is $757 million, of which $223 million is cost to Medicare and $221 million is cost to Medicaid. Nationally, childhood obesity alone costs Medicaid more than $3 billion annually.

If we continue to talk about self restraint and personal responsibility (while noble), we are going to be run over by runaway medical costs that someone is going to have to pay for.

So, as you have another cup of coffee with that do-nut and ponder this, remember, the time for action is now.