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Luckett leads MBJ reader poll

July 12th, 2011 Comments off

Despite Johnny Dupree receiving an endorsement today from Congressman Bennie Thompson, Clarksdale businessman Bill Luckett leads a MBJ reader poll asking who will be the Democratic nominee for governor. Click here to see the results and vote.

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Stereotypes be damned: Cops (especially traffic cops) love do-nuts

June 28th, 2011 1 comment

As most of you know I like to buy do-nuts for the office every week or so.

Well, this morning, as I was looking for a parking place in downtown Jackson near Spurlock’s, I noticed a police vehicle parked in a no parking zone, but I didn’t think much of it.

I went ahead and parked and walked a block or so to the do-nut shop. Well, guess who was the first person I saw when I walked in the do-nut shop?

No- Parking Zone

Yep.

One of the traffic enforcement officers was sitting enjoying her morning coffee and breakfast at Spurlock’s while her vehicle was parked in a no parking zone outside of the Jackson business.

I will let you take the story from here. I am not judging, I’m just sayin’ …

Y’all have a nice day!!

Ball State University report: Mississippi is fat and stupid

June 17th, 2011 3 comments

Mississippians are fat, stupid and doomed to low-wage, menial careers, according to a Ball State University report.

However, officials at the Mississippi Economic Council scoff at the findings, leading MEC president Blake Wilson to say, “I’m glad (they are) very safe behind (their) internet research perch.”

>>>SEE REPORT<<<

Michael Hicks, director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research, which conducted the study, told the Mississippi Business Journal that 4 out of 10 Mississippians are not going to be able to compete for jobs in the new manufacturing world, which depends greatly on mathematical skills and education.

“We’re in trouble. We are in big trouble,” admitted former Mississippi university and high school administrator Reggie Barnes.

The Ball State report graded all 50 states in several areas of the economy that support manufacturing and logistics. Mississippi ranked low in education, obesity and overall health, among other categories.

“Mississippi is a nice place,” Hicks said. “But the only jobs most people are going to get are shucking oysters and sweeping floors.”

Mississippi received an overall score of C+ for manufacturing and good grades in diversification and tax climate. However, failing grades in human capital and venture capital give Mississippi a dim economic future to look toward.

“Obviously, he has never been to Mississippi,” Wilson said. “That’s just a ridiculous statement. Anybody that knows anything about Mississippi knows we’ve got all kinds of high-tech employment.

“He’s probably looking at older data when he’s looking at that conclusion,” Wilson said. “And this is why we don’t take this kind of study very seriously. I mean it’s legitimate research. It’s just that it doesn’t mean a whole lot.”

But when asked about the MEC response, Hicks chuckled and said, “So, let me guess, the MEC is wanting to tell you that Mississippi is a great place and I am some Yankee that doesn’t know what he is talking about?

“To say that poor education is not holding back Mississippi from an economic perspective is to suggest your head is in the sand or a darker orifice,” he said.
One Mississippi expert acknowledges the downside of the report, and says this should be a wake up call to Mississippi leaders to make a change.

“An F on human capital? Ouch,” exclaims Mississippi College assistant professor of finance Nancy Anderson, who is also on the board of the Mississippi Council on Economic Education.

Anderson, however, noted that most southern states are similarly graded.
“Our lower grades are ‘fixable,’ with some effort,” Anderson said. “This seems to be a call for more investment in education, more funding for university research. The venture capital hurdle can even be cleared, with some help from the public sector.”

Mississippi officials — Including Jay Moon at the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and director of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Hank Bounds — were not available to the Mississippi Business Journal for an interview regarding this story.

“Some states, such as Indiana, have seen a real turnaround in manufacturing employment since the end of the recession (up 4.6 percent), while the nation as a whole has seen one in 50 manufacturing jobs lost,” Hicks says.

“Prior to the recession, business location and expansion decisions were almost wholly driven by the availability of skilled workers,” he says. “Today, that is far less a short term consideration, and tax rates, and concern about future tax increases due to high pension costs and other factors dominate business decisions to relocate.  So, states that emerge from this recession with a solid fiscal climate will tend to outperform those with uncertain balance sheets.”

That is good news for Mississippi in the short term.

“Haley Barbour will be glad to hear that,” Hicks said. “Mississippi will likely benefit for the near term because of its friendly tax laws and diversity of manufacturing. In the current recovery, states with good tax climates are going to do well.”

But in Mississippi, the real problem of education and healthcare “has not gone away,” Hicks said.

While Mississippi may be gaining cutting-edge manufacturing from the solar and green energy sector, there are few actual Mississippians who can take advantage of the new jobs. Therefore, the new jobs will likely go to people moving from other states, having little positive effect on the double-digit unemployment here.

Even if Mississippi gets all of the high-tech jobs on the plant, Mississippians, for the most part, aren’t going to be the people working there, Hicks explains. (Mississippians) are good people, but they lack the education to work in a real-world economy.

The other side is that because of the poor education and general health of the state (the fattest state in America), Hicks says the best applicants likely will never consider moving to Mississippi.

“That’s the problem,” Hicks says of the long-term economic future of Mississippi. And the positives from the tax climate and diversification don’t come close to making up for the downsides.

“(Mississippi) is just not going to get (the new and best) major manufacturing plants,” Hicks said. “(Mississippians without a proper education) are out of the mix.”

The problem is with 8th grade math scores. Mississippi is far behind the rest of the nation and that is an area manufacturing is concentrating on.

In a cover story in Atlantic Magazine, education was front and center. Nationwide: only 6 percent of U.S. students perform at the advanced-proficiency level in math, a share that lags behind kids in some 30 other countries, from the United Kingdom to Taiwan.

In Mississippi, math scores are much worse, and students here — by this measure at least — might as well be attending school in Thailand or Serbia. Every year, a better education for our youth is listed as our top need, like in this Ball State report. To this point, Mississippi just cut spending at every level of education from kindergarten to graduate school.

Barnes said this is at the heart of the problem of education and industry and economy.

“When are we going to learn or wake up to the direct correlation between education and economic development?” Barnes asked. “We just keep our heads in the sand.”

School superintendents with experience are not willing to make a change at the local level for fear of losing their jobs and their retirement, because of the pressure put on them from above, he said. As for younger superintendents, he says they are unwilling to rock the boat for fear of having their future yanked out from under them.

“You must have these skills,” Hicks said. “Computer skills and a higher lever of math is what everyone is looking for.”

And Mississippi workers do not and will not have these skills, based on scores Ball State examined for its study.

“When are we going to make those changes?” Barnes asked. “I wish I could tell you someone, somewhere has the guts to stand up and change things, but I don’t see it.”

And then he said there is no debating that without an overhaul, Mississippi will continue to be compared to Thailand, where the large-scale sex industry flourishes and education is on the back burner.

Scrap metal thieves beware

June 15th, 2011 1 comment

Scrap metal thieves across the South are shaking in their boots today as The Mississippi Department of Transportation, Secretary of State’s Office and local law enforcement officials say they will be on the lookout for looters transporting or gutting scrap metal from homes and businesses vacated due to flooding.
All of these folks said all of this in a press release.
The release started with, “Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has already warned scrap metal thieves that authorities were watching to ensure they do not steal from flooded homes and businesses. Now others, even some outside the state, are joining in that watch.”
“It’s hard enough for flood victims dealing with the devastation of their homes being damaged by high flood waters,” Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall is reported to have said in the release.
Now, if we can get the scrap metal thieves to read.

Who really is quoted in that press release you just sent?

June 8th, 2011 1 comment

Press releases and e-mail quotes are like nails scratching down a chalk board to me. In many instances, they are a necessity, but there are limits to what you can do with them.

In some cases, the Mississippi Business Journal just will not accept them. There are so many limits on their effectiveness.

>> WATCH THIS VIDEO: HAS THE PRESS RELEASE KILLED THE NEWS?

In email interviews, you can’t do follow-up questions based on the subject’s answers, and the reporter can’t take body language into account. Then, in a statement, how are you to know the quotes are the quotes of the person they are attributed to?

The media is already getting a bum rap too many times about not getting it right, when taking a quote from an e-mailed statement is a guaranteed way not to have a guaranty of who authored the quotes.

Veteran journalist Jim Stasiowski preaches on this subject often.

“What I tell reporters and editors all the time is, we get our best responses the closer we get to our sources,” said Stasiowski, writing coach for The Dolan Company, which owns the Mississippi Business Journal.  “We get better information if we can be there in person to ask questions; if that’s not possible, then the telephone is the next best way to interview because even though we’re not physically right next to the person, we’re communicating with him or her in real time, and we can sense from voice inflection, pauses, laughter, etc., what that person’s mood is.”

The point is email separates us from the person, both in time – he or she can answer an email whenever – and in the experience of being together.

“Think of it this way: If, as a tornado was roaring through a neighborhood, if a reporter could get on the telephone a resident, frightened to death and huddled in a basement, would that interview be dramatic?

“OK, now, let’s say we emailed that person when the tornado was approaching, but he or she already was in the basement, far from the computer,” Stasiowski continued. “If, two hours later, he or she found that email message and responded, yes, the response would be thoughtful and worthwhile, but it would lack that very human element of wondering what was about to happen.”

The list of difficulties with email interviews should scare every reporter, but he says the truth is, “Some reporters like the easy way to get information, and email exchanges are easy.

“I want reporters who treasure the difficulties inherent in the in-person or over-the-telephone interview. And I want reporters who get as close as possible to the people they are interviewing.”

It’s important to remember that email is not terrific for sorting out issues of great complexity. In this respect, an actual conversation can do wonders. So, when at all possible, getting the news from the horse’s mouth is the best avenue to take.



Craft beer enthusiasts get boost

June 6th, 2011 Comments off

According media reports, Tax assassin Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform have thrown their support behind some important legislation that was in May introduced to mark American Craft Brew Week– The Brewer’s Employment and Excise Relief Act of 2011 or BEER Act.

Lazy Magnolia owner Leslie Henderson can be seen here on Fox and Friends throwing her support behind the idea.

Bryant drafting on idea of a NASCAR track

June 6th, 2011 1 comment

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant knows every speed-loving Mississippian would support bringing NASCAR to the state, and he’s promising, as part of his campaign for governor, to help make it happen.
But there’s a big problem with that promise: Bryant can’t keep it.
There will not be a NASCAR track built in Mississippi. And even if one gets built, it’s highly unlikely NASCAR would schedule any races here.
In a recent speech in Rankin County, Bryant told a group of supporters, “We have even talked to some friends … about a NASCAR track. I’m gonna go ahead and tell you I want one. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say we need a NASCAR track here in Mississippi. And I’ve got the people to come together that want to do that.”
However, motorsports insiders say that’s never going to happen.
The last track sanctioned by NASCAR was the $152-million Kentucky Speedway, which will have its first official race with the big boys in July. But it took five years and two lawsuits to get the track included in the series.
“NASCAR is looking to cut back on dates, not increase dates,” Sports Business Journal motorsports writer Tripp Mickle said. “That’s an empty promise. That’s never going to happen.”
NASCAR has been going through the same economic crisis as every other industry in the nation. It already cut purses for the Nationwide Series by 20 per cent this season, a move designed to make hosting the second-tier series a more profitable proposition for track owners. It also cut the number of races this year from 35 to 34.
But short track owners are losing money, too, and the industry is scrambling to come up with a viable solution.
Mickle estimated a new track in Mississippi could cost between $200 million and $500 million and take up to three years to build.
“Maybe you could get one of the minor series to come,” he said, “but, I don’t know.”
Even a Mississippi-born NASCAR insider, who wants a track in Mississippi, said there’s no way it will happen.
“No chance,” said former nascar.com managing editor Duane Cross, who grew up in Aberdeen. “To get up and talk about that is really not very fair.”
Promising a NASCAR track is one thing, he said, but laying out a clear set of plans and details is something else.
Bryant, for now at least, is keeping those details to himself.
Other than his comments on the campaign trail, Bryant would not respond to interview requests to detail the idea, but a statement attributed to him said he is for NASCAR in Mississippi.
That doesn’t add up. Bryant is on the campaign trail telling potential voters he wants to bring NASCAR to Mississippi, yet he doesn’t want to talk about the specifics of building what, at minimum, could be a $200-million track and breaking into the NASCAR schedule.
To get a national touring series race — Cup, Nationwide or Truck — a track must apply for a NASCAR-sanctioned license. The track must then meet minimum safety requirements.
“Even then,” Cross said, “the chances of NASCAR adding a date to the existing schedule is almost nil.”
The same is true for a local series race, like K&N Pro East or West, Whelen Modified or Whelen Southern Modified and Whelen All-American.
Cross, who is now editor of ncaa.com, said there is a better opportunity for Mississippi to get a local series track sanctioned “but the economic impact is almost minimal.”
So, is Bryant’s NASCAR talk just an attempt to get votes by misleading the public?
If it’s not and he’s serious about making this happen, his potential supporters deserve more than a weak promise built on the sands of political sentiment. Without the details, it looks a lot like Bryant is just spinning his wheels.

Norquist will not seek re-election in Legislature; Dallas expected to seek position

May 27th, 2011 Comments off

District 28 state representative David Norquist (D-Cleveland) will not seek re-election in order to spend more time with his family, according to a source close to the situation.

Early word is that Cleveland native David Dallas is going to run for the position. Dallas is the former director of the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State Univ

DAVID NORQUIST

ersity and is currently executive director of the HealthCare Foundation of the Tri-State Delta in Greenville.

Norquist has been a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Water Resources, Gaming, Judiciary B, JudiciaryEn Banc and Universities and Colleges committees.

Norquist is also a member of the City of Cleveland Volunteer Fire Department, and he is a member of the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association, the Defense Research Institute and the American Bar Association.

Dallas, meanwhile, is a graduate of Delta State, who went on to Mississippi State, where he helped care for the aging Sen. John C. Stennis.

Stennis, a 1923 Mississippi A&M College (now MSU) graduate, returned to campus in 1988 following his retirement. Nearly 90 at the time, he lived in a university residence for several years before declining health required his relocation to a full-care facility near Jackson.
Dallas was the MSU graduate student who served for two years as personal Stennis’ aide.
Dallas went on to write an award-winning screeenplay and script for a one-man play about his days with Sen. Stennis, named “A Gentleman from Mississippi.” He portrays three characters: himself as a Stennis caregiver; Stennis as a frail and wheelchair-bound former national leader; and Stennis at the height of his senatorial power.

DAVID DALLAS

Stennis died in 1995 and is buried at Pinecrest Cemetery in DeKalb.

After completing his master’s degree in public administration at MSU in 1990, Dallas went to Washington as a Presidential Management Intern in federal service. He also holds a bachelor’s in political science and English literature at Delta State University, where his father is a retired history professor.

Dallas spent five years at Delta State as Executive Director of the Bologna Performing Arts Center, where he was selected as “Delta Innovator” in 2008.
He nearly 20 years of professional experience, which includes developing, monitoring, and evaluating grant projects along with successful strategic leadership. After graduating from MSU, he was selected by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a Presidential Management Fellowship and later received a Legislative Fellowship with the U.S. Senate through the Office of Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott. He served six years with the United States Information Agency’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs where he administered a $40 million dollar grant program with the Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union under the FREEDOM Support Act. He was selected by the Japanese Prime Minister’s office as the lead U.S. Delegate on the Prime Minister’s Ship for World Youth in a three-month tour of the Pacific. He then served as the Director of International Programs at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Don’t screw this up Canton

May 6th, 2011 Comments off

In a published story Friday, Canton officials are seeking a state court ruling on annexing the nearby Nissan Motor Co. plant.

Yet, according to the story, before the plant was built near the city, the city had wanted to annex the land, but Nissan threatened to back out of the deal.

What makes Blackmon think Nissan doesn’t feel the same way today. It seems Canton’s needs are served much better with Nissan being where it is.

Would Canton be better off annexing the land with an empty Nissan plant on it?

Just something to think about.

Doiron prepares for flooding with new event

May 5th, 2011 Comments off
Runners take off at the beginning of a recent Cotton Classic 10K road race in Greenville, including a much bigger and slower me on the far right.

Runners take off at the beginning of a recent Cotton Classic 10K road race in Greenville, including a much bigger and slower me on the far right.

I was chatting with my buddy, Phillip Doiron, this morning via text.

Phillip is the CEO if the Hodding Carter Memorial YMCA in Greenville, and we have been friends for several years dating to my tenure as editor of the Delta Democrat Times.

Phillip Doiron, CEO of the Hodding Carter Memorial YMCA in Greenville.

Phillip Doiron, CEO of the Hodding Carter Memorial YMCA in Greenville.

••• Learn more about the Cotton Classic 10K in Greenville…

Anyway, I was texting him this morning to give him a hard time about one of his biggest events of the year, the Cotton Classic 10K road race.

I missed last year’s event and have felt bad about it. So, this year is a must. This Saturday is a must.

But word from MDOT is that U.S. 61 is going to be closed due to flooding as are parts of U.S. 49W, the two main routes to Greenville from Jackson.

I asked him if I am going to be able to make it Friday night. After a couple of serious comments back and forth, Phillip suggested I might need to bring a swim suit with me for the event.

Sure, I said. Maybe we can make it a biathlon.

“Amen brother,” Phillip replied.

Amen, indeed.