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Posts Tagged ‘business’

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.

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.

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.

Lawmakers obtuse to reality of pro-business legislation

February 3rd, 2011 Comments off

One of the hot topics around our office the last couple of weeks has been the beer bill, which was destined to die before it ever reached a floor vote.
Indeed, it died a quiet death last week, never making it out of committee.
We ran a cover story on the issue and followed it up with a money trail story that linked beer breweries to legislators.
We have written columns, blasting the lawmakers who had the opportunity to forward the debate.
Even this week, Clay Chandler has a story on page eight about a couple of Mississippi men who have started a craft beer business in Louisiana, never considering Mississippi, in part, because of our laws.
When we first started looking at this, I called a lawmaker friend of mine and asked why there is such animosity for this bill.
“You ever hear of the Bible Belt?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah.”
“That’s why,” he deadpanned as if I had asked the stupidest question ever.
That was the end of the conversation.
The legislation that died last week would raised the allowable alcohol content for beer in Mississippi from 5 percent alcohol by weight to 8 percent.
In our first story, we chatted with Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, who chairs the Finance Committee. He confirmed that the beer legislation stood zero chance of making it out of his committee, and that he wouldn’t introduce it.
“I really don’t want to put my committee members in an uncomfortable position in an election year.”
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who is the front-runner on the Republican side in this year’s race for governor, was quoted as saying he doesn’t “see a reasonable public benefit to increasing the alcohol content in Mississippi.”
We have been critical of those remarks as indifferent and submissive.
Bryant and Kirby have now put the word out that we (Mississippi Business Journal) are out to get them.
Yet, Kirby has not returned phone calls requesting comment and the only response we have ever gotten from Bryant on the issue is an e-mail that contained his previous quote.

The sticking point
OK, we aren’t asking about passing a bill on abortion or gay marriage or some other hot-button issue.
We are talking about craft beer and having the lowest ABW percentage in America. Our 5 percent ABW restricts what high-end beers can be sold in Mississsippi and what craft beers can be manufactured in Mississippi, even if they were to shipped out of state.
Yes, this is the Bible Belt, and yes, there are still 35 dry counties in Mississippi.
But, we are talking about creating jobs, and we are talking about creating more tax revenue in a time when jobs are scarce and government funds are limited, to say the least.
By the way, in addition to the fact that Mississippi is already selling and brewing beer, there are 23 towns and cities in those 35 dry counties which have chosen to sell alcohol. That means only rural pockets of few people are out there that really oppose the sale of liquor these days.
We and I aren’t “out to get” anyone.
I am concerned at how serious lawmakers can be so obtuse.
While this may not be Toyota or Nissan about to bring thousands of jobs to the state, the issue is about business.
Both Bryant and Kirby like to tout their BIPEC (Business and Industry Political Education Committee) rating as pro-business lawmakers.
Yet, when there is an opportunity help the business community, their actions fall woefully short.
What I would love is for Sen. Kirby and Lt. Gov. Bryant to come by our offices and visit, drink a cup of coffee and have an honest, thoughtful discussion on why a pro-business bill has been stiff-armed for three consecutive years.

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

More than 99 percent vote for raising alcohol by weight

January 18th, 2011 Comments off

With more than 1,200 votes cast in an Mississippi Business Journal online poll, readers overwhelmingly believe that both chambers of the Mississippi legislature should reconsider their stance that would raise the maximum alcohol content in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent to 8.

However, Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, argues against a microbreweries beer bill, because he doesn’t want to put his committee members in an uncomfortable position during an election year, it is obvious that political gain is more important than business success.

POLL QUESTION: Should leadership in both chambers reconsider their stance regarding legislation that would raise the maximum alcohol content in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent alcohol by weight to 8

Even Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican candidate for governor, took the same position in a story in the Mississippi Business Journal this week. Bryant said he didn’t see a reasonable benefit to increasing the alcohol content in Mississippi.

If that is the case, Bryant and Kirby must be against more jobs and a better tax base for Mississippi.

In a conversation with the Mississippi Business Journal last week, Coast businessman Dave Dennis, a Republican candidate for governor, said he would be for such a bill and that any concerns about alcohol and morality is about personal responsibility, not politics.

Read Clay Chandler’s Mississippi Marketplace for more information.

Kirby, Bryant prove to be anti-business; Dennis for personal responsibility

January 17th, 2011 Comments off

I have written before about the term “anti-business” and that the perception often doesn’t match the label.

However, when Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, argues against a microbreweries beer bill, because he doesn’t want to put his committee members in an uncomfortable position during an election year, it is obvious that political gain is more important than business success.

POLL QUESTION: Should leadership in both chambers reconsider their stance regarding legislation that would raise the maximum alcohol content in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent alcohol by weight to 8

Even Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican candidate for governor, took the same position in a story in the Mississippi Business Journal this week. Bryant said he didn’t see a reasonable benefit to increasing the alcohol content in Mississippi.

If that is the case, Bryant and Kirby must be against more jobs and a better tax base for Mississippi.

In a conversation with the Mississippi Business Journal last week, Coast businessman Dave Dennis, a Republican candidate for governor, said he would be for such a bill and that any concerns about alcohol and morality is about personal responsibility, not politics.

So, if Dennis sees the financial and jobs benefit of the bill, why not Bryant and Kirby. I’m assuming they would rather see government impose its will on Mississippians instead of allowing for personal responsibility.

Maybe they could meet me for a beer to discuss it.

I mean, there’s no use in being a hypocrite, right?

Tupelo hotels back in business

November 1st, 2010 Comments off

Dennis Seid of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal had a piece in their Sunday paper about the proliferation of new hotel construction in Tupelo.

Apparently, there had been big plans just before the recession hit, which were put on hold. However, the last six months to a year, some of those plans are slowly coming back.

Good story to check out. … Click here for the rest.

A little morning Hobnobbing …

October 28th, 2010 Comments off

Early mornings are the best time to go to annual Hobnob event sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council.

I spent about an hour and a half there this morning before the masses descended on the grounds around the Mississippi Agricultural Museum.

In general, Hobnob is one of my favorite events of the year because it is such a great opportunity to visit with business leaders around the state in an informal, laid back setting. The weather, while sometimes windy, is usually perfect and the program is captivating.

Blake Wilson and his crew do a great job and should be commended for the work they do to pull this off. I recently had lunch with Blake and asked him about preparation for the event, expecting moans and sighs about how hard it is.

Instead, he lauded his colleagues with lots of praise, saying Sandy Maxwell, Scott Waller, Ron Hicks and the rest of the staff have the prep work down to a science. He did admit the hard work that goes into putting Hobnob together, but he feels their formula for success is working and the process in place works.

I couldn’t agree more.

Tastes a lot like chickpeas

September 11th, 2009 Comments off

As I waited at Sal and Mookies in Jackson for my pizza to take home to the family, I sat down with a soft drink and reached into bowl of nuts. … Not peanuts, but chickpeas. … It reminded me of the story I read in the most recent edition of “Time” about cotton.

Yes cotton.

While we have been writing off the South’s cash crop for the last decade, it appears scientists have been having other ideas.

According the “Time” article, ‘It’s as true in today’s world as it was in the antebellum South: cotton is king.’

Could it be?

Well, for more than 7,000 cotton has mostly been used for its fiber. Apparently, however, cotton seed is rich in protein. And protein could help feed lots of people, right?

Yup, except cotton has a chemical in it that is toxic. The toxic “gossypol” actually helps repel insects from the plant while it is growing. You remove the gossypol, you remove any chance of having cotton in the first place.

Until now.

Scientists, according to this article, have found a way to remove the toxic chemical, yet preserve the insect-fighting abilities.

So, now you could have a “Cheap and an abundant form of protein for everyone.”

Great for the South, right?

Great for Mississippi right?

More cotton demand, means higher prices, which means better times for farmers, which might even mean better times for the Delta and Southwest Mississippi, right?

My only question is, did we get away from cotton too soon. Do we still have the infrastructure (cotton gins) to take on a heavy demand for cotton again.

I don’t know the answer, but as I sat at Sal and Mookies, I thought about that last paragraph of the story in time, which read, “Genetically modified cottonseeds will need government approval before they hit grocery shelves, and they’re more likely to be used first to supplement fish or animal feed. But with the global population still on the rise and farmland limited, the planet can use free protein. And you might even like it. “It’s not bad,” says (the scientist that made this cotton-seed discovery), who has popped a few seeds. “Tastes like chickpeas.”

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1920290,00.html

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