Posts Tagged ‘economy’

EPA admits it has no experts on Yazoo Pump Project

March 7th, 2012 Comments off

Just got off the phone with the EPA in Atlanta, and, according to a media representative, there is no one there who is an expert on the Yazoo Backwater Project.

Having said that, a federal appeals court panel sided yesterday with the Environmental Protection Agency over its 2008 veto of a $220 million flood control project near the Yazoo River in the south Mississippi Delta.

Does it make sense that there is no one in the entirety of the EPA who falls into the category of an “expert” who can answer questions about the project, yet it vetoed the project and has been willing to defend that decision in the courts?

FAT, LAZY AND STUPID: Mississippi’s 99 percenters just sit, smoke and squander opportunities

November 17th, 2011 2 comments

Reading the national reports of the Occupy protests has me conflicted as I walk in and out of the offices of the Mississippi Business Journal in downtown Jackson.

The national reports conjure up heady folks making an impact on the world as they take on economic inequality and corporate irresponsibility.

Even if, nationally, the scruffy group has been prone to violence, defied police and shown evidence of drug use while camping in public parks across the country — there has been a sense of urgency in the message that is being delivered.

In Mississippi — Smith Park in downtown Jackson, in particular — there is little sense of urgency or sense of purpose.

In interviews we have done with the group, the talking points are all generic and don’t have any specifics that would lead one to believe the Mississippi group is doing anything other than taking up space in a public park.

On the national level, experts say the public supports the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement even if people have reservations about the encampments themselves. And political observers say Democrats may be missing a chance to reinvigorate their base.

In Mississippi, however, there are people protesting for the sake of protesting.

They sit around much of the day smoking, eating and sitting.

Every once in a while, you will hear five minutes of chanting during the lunch hour.

But largely, the Occupy protesters of Mississippi are lazy — even to their own cause.

They have done nothing to educate Jackson’s business community, which walks past the group by the thousands daily. Yet Occupy Mississippi’s numbers generally aren’t enough for a pick-up flag football game in my back yard.

With Mississippi being a conservative state, to begin with, the Occupy team has its work cut out in making a convincing case to the people that see them sitting around every day. Then, to make little or no effort to engage and educate is unacceptable.

Not that I am looking for a giant demonstration, but if you are going to hang around, at least act like you care. Don’t just sit there like a baby bird waiting to get fed by its mother.

Compared to the Occupy protest around the country, Mississippi has got to rank last in zest and zeal. But maybe they think just “occupying” space is enough.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at or (601) 364-1018

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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.”



••• 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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Cutting your nose off …

August 31st, 2010 Comments off

I’m sure, by now, you’ve seen the news on our website of Baptist Hospital’s layoffs as well as the announcement of job cuts at the University of Southern Mississippi.

That’s more bad news in two areas — health care and education — that hardly need more bad news in this state.

The ironic part about the cuts at Southern Miss is the administration feeling the need to cut positions out of the business department. Certainly every department has reasons why jobs shouldn’t be eliminated, but it seems to me that in an economic downtown, the one thing you wouldn’t want to do is to scale back on training our future business leaders.

But, hey, that’s just me.

Riverwalk a project we can’t afford to skimp on

March 25th, 2010 Comments off

When Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson gets the keys to the car that is the Jackson Riverwalk, be sure it is him that will decide whether that car is a Rolls Royce or a Yugo.
In a story in this edition of the Mississippi Business Journal, staff writer Clay Chandler talks with Jackson developer David Watkins who came up with the ambitious project that would feature a mile-long, concrete-lined canal that starts at Farish Street and ends at Court Street, where it would empty into a 35-acre lake that connected to the Pearl River.
Watkins, who developed the renovated Hotel King Edward and who is currently renovating the Standard Life Building, said then he hoped to turn the project over to the City of Jackson and its redevelopment authority within 30 days, which would have been the middle part of January, which still hasn’t happened.
But, Watkins says he is ready to hand the project over to the city and he believes something will be happening with it in the next five years — even saying the project could be near completion.
Wait a minute. Is this just a pie-in-the-sky notion that will never happen?
That’s what a lot of folks said when Watkins rescued the King Edward Hotel.
That’s what a lot of folks said when he got involved in the Standard Life Building.
Far be it for me to call David Watkins a hero, but the man has a track record of making the unthinkable happen.
You won’t read words in these pages that doubt David Watkins.
If his vision can be seen through to the end, the face of Jackson will be changed forever.
If Mayor Johnson can find a way to make this happen, he will be viewed as the mayor who put Jackson on par with some of the great small cities in America.
In our story this week, Clay Chandler writes about the financial burden that Jackson has. The city, as he points out, is in the middle of a nosedive in tax collections that have forced leaders to make some politically unpopular decisions and is just starting to cause some workers at multiple levels of government to lose their jobs.
And the city’s involvement in the $300-million project is nonnegotiable, Watkins told the MBJ, because there will have to be public financing, probably in the form of bonds, to pull it off.
But this is the project that Johnson cannot afford to pass on. This is the game changer.
This project, if done correctly, will turn the tide on “white flight” and make Jackson a destination for everyone in Mississippi as well as so many others throughout the Southeast and across the nation.
Good luck, Mayor Johnson. The keys are in your hands.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at or (601) 364-1018.

New Delta industry not what it is purported

March 11th, 2010 Comments off

I hate to be the fly in the punch bowl here, but the continued talk about new industry in the Delta changing the way of life there is truly nauseating.
As a Delta native, I continue to be amazed at how folks like to associate with the Delta in order to makes themselves seem like they are helping a third world country.
Don’t get me wrong, the fact that a German company broke ground on a $300-million pipe manufacturing plant last week in Tunica County is a great opportunity for jobs in the area.
But what area?
The Mississippi Delta comprises many counties from the Tennessee line all the way down to northern Warren County near Vicksburg. It runs from the Mississippi River to near Grenada and Batesville in the East.
And, yes, Tunica County is part of the mix.
But where the plant will be located in Northeast Tunica County, the vast majority of the up-to-500 jobs will likely go to  a ever growing DeSoto County population.
And no one is thumbing their nose at jobs for those folks in Desoto County.
However, it’s disingenuous, at best, for Gov. Haley Barbour and the powers that be in Tunica County to proclaim this, and many other projects to be giant victories for the most downtrodden region in the United States.
It was not so long ago when a new manufacturing plant launched in the City of Batesville.
Parts of Panola County are in the Delta, true enough. But when the effort was announced, it was put forth in a manner that made it sound like Deltans were going to get the lions share of the jobs.
In that instance, like the plant in Tunica County, most of the new jobs for the Batesville plant will go to those 20 miles east in Oxford rather than 20 miles west in Marks.
Again, good for those that are getting the jobs. We are in an economy where everyone who can get a job deserves it.
My concern is that we are telling the rest of the state a little white lie when new industry opens in fringe Delta counties.
Because what happens is the next time someone from Meridian hears about the plight of the Delta, they will think, “Well, they just had two companies with 1,000 jobs open. They can’t be too bad off.”
The fact is the new plant in Tunica County will have only a  mild effect on the Delta’s jobless population. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

A look at bamboo and labeling for fish products

January 20th, 2010 1 comment

Labeling for catfish and seafood products is a no-brainer.
The Mississippi Legislature this year is likely to debate a bill that would require Mississippi restaurants to notify customers of the country of origin of their seafood.
Steve Bosarge of Pascagoula, a commission member and shrimper, said the menu labeling requirement would help shrimpers expand the market for their catch.
It wasn’t so long ago that we were talking about country of origin labeling for catfish not produced in the United States.
We should require restaurants to either have a sign posted stating that the catfish or seafood served there is U.S. farm-raised catfish or, if the restaurant serves imported catfish, it must state on its menu which country the catfish was grown and processed in.
There have been growing concerns over the last couple of years about catfish imported from China, Vietnam and Cambodia. The poor water quality where catfish are grown prompts growers in those countires to use antibiotics in production, but some of those drugs are not approved for use in the United States.
Growers in the United States follow stricter standards than catfish producers in Asia, Whittington said, and U.S. consumers should know what they’re getting when they eat catfish at a restaurant. Grocery stores already are required to label catfish products with country of origin, and we believe that no less should be expected of Mississippi restaurants.
Mississippi catfish growers have taken a huge financial hit from the import of catfish products, according to statistics from U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Any bill for labeling protects not only consumers but producers by forcing restaurants to let customers know where they are getting their product.
The bamboo state?
It appears bamboo fields could start popping up all across Mississippi, beginning this spring.
Just a year or so ago, Ed Johnson at the Delta Economic Development Center was touting bamboo as a possible source of income in the Delta.
In a recent conversation with Johnson, he believes the first plants could be in the ground in 8 to 12 weeks.
There are literally thousands of products that can be made from bamboo and while the United States can’t compete with fart east countries on labor costs, Mississippi can win on fuel and shipping costs.
The main markets for bamboo are:
•  Hard goods – flooring, cabinetry, fencing
• Pulp and paper
• Textiles – clothing, bedding, towels
• Bio-mass – bamboo could make an excellent candidate for fuels due to it’s low moisture content, and low ash/chlorine contents.
• Carbon credit opportunities – moso bamboo is the largest carbon sequestering plant in the world
• Eco-tourism – where folks could tour groves of 75 feet tall grasses?
There is still a lot of work to do. However, what appeared to many to be a pipe dream just 15 months ago looks like it is going to become a reality.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at or (601) 364-1018.

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.”,9171,1920290,00.html

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Enrollment increase not unexpected

September 1st, 2009 Comments off

When I read this morning that enrollment was up at Northeast Community College in Booneville, I was not surprised.

The college had 3,707 students enrolled when registration ended for the current semester. This marks a 275 student increase over the previous record set in the fall of 2007 and a 405 student boost over last year’s figure.

NEMCC President Dr. Johnny Allen said it’s impossible to attribute the rise in enrollment to any single factor, but he believes the college’s efforts to recruit more students have played a major role.

I was not surprised on a couple of levels.

First, with the economy still making things hard on Mississippians, 2-year schools in the Magnolia State have a real value to offer families wanting to send their children to college. Plus, the education at the community college level is as good as anyone could expect. Without having all the numbers in front of me, tuition at Mississippi’s community colleges are signifcantly lower than than of their 4-year brothers. That’s a real value under any economic scenario.

Second, however, is the 4-year schools having to increase tuition, specifically, the four small schools — Alcorn State, Delta State, Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi Valley State.

When the Stacy Davidson, Scott Ross and the other members of the Institutions of Higher Learning decided to implement a funding formula that penalized the small schools, a result such as this could be expected. I suspect, when all is said and done, the four small 4-year schools will have decreased enrollment while the community colleges, as a whole, will be up as well as big schools like Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss.

In the end, the community colleges are looking good.