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Mississippi ranks next to last in nation on new measure of opportunity in America

November 28th, 2011 Comments off

The State of Mississippi has placed next to last in the nation, ranking 50th, on a new measure designed to indicate how effectively individuals living in a state can move up the economic ladders of society as compared to the rest of the country.

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippi is fat and stupid

>> RELATED STORY: Mississippi last in reading and math

>> RELATED STORY: Health, education key to Mississippi economy

The measure, called the Opportunity Index, pulls together more than a dozen data points to rank every state by awarding a first of its kind Opportunity Score. The Index is designed to empower community leaders, engaged citizens, and elected officials at all levels to become knowledgeable of the overall opportunity they are providing to those living in their region. It will be issued annually, giving leaders a way to track progress and measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Developed jointly by Opportunity Nation and the American Human Development Project, the Index is available online, for free in a user-friendly and interactive format at www.opportunityindex.org.

“Opportunity Nation starts from the belief that the zip code you’re born into shouldn’t pre-determine your destiny,” said Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation. “For too long we have sliced and diced the interconnected issues of education, jobs, families, and communities – the framework underlying the idea of opportunity – into narrow silos that are disconnected. The reality is that these factors work in tandem to determine the potential success of our citizenry. That’s what the Opportunity Index provides – an unprecedented snapshot of what opportunity in America looks like at the local, state and national levels.”

MISSISSIPPI LANDS NEAR BOTTOM

Mississippi landed next to last in the nation, earning an Opportunity Score of 29.8 out of 100. Only the state of Nevada fared worse. The state ranked lower than national averages in 13 out of 16 categories. A few of the trouble areas that Mississippians struggle with include:

· Poverty Plays a Role: Mississippi has the lowest median household income in the country, at $36,796, and the highest poverty rate in the nation at 21.4%. It is one of three states in the nation where median household income is lower than $40,000 per year

· Not Part of the Information Superhighway: Mississippi has the lowest score for high-speed internet access, with only 43.5% of households having high-speed internet.

· Room for Improvement in Education: Mississippi has a significantly lower percentage of on-time high school graduates (64%) than the national average (74%). It is also falling behind in college graduates with only 19% of the population holding a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 27%.

“Having scored at or below the national average in many of the metrics used to formulate their Opportunity Score, Mississippi residents have much work to do before they can say they provide their residents with opportunities to improve their lives,” said

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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 ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018

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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.

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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.

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.”

RELATED STORIES …

••• KEMPER PLANT KEY IN HEATED PSC RACE

••• 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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Mississippi State, Ole Miss ready for Aggie invasion

August 11th, 2011 Comments off

An image released by the University of Mississippi shows a proposed expansion to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. The university has announced plans to raise $150 million to build a new on-campus basketball arena and upgrade the football stadium. The first phase of the program would build a 10,000-seat basketball arena to replace Tad Smith Coliseum, a cramped facility that was built in 1966 and holds slightly more than 9,000 fans. It would also include renovating the concourse and premium seating in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

On the eve of college football taking center stage across the South, folks here in Mississippi appear on the verge of having a new team (maybe two) to pay attention to on a regular basis.
In a story that flamed up quickly last week, Ole Miss and Mississippi State could add Texas A&M to its Southeastern Conference Western Division permanent schedule as soon as next season.
The Aggies to the SEC, according to reports in multiple newspapers, appears to be picking up steam less than a month before the new, restructured Big 12 plays its first season.
Having said that, don’t expect the SEC to add the Aggies without throwing in one more to make scheduling easier. An SEC with 13 teams isn’t as tidy as one with 14. So, if A&M is brought into the fold, look for a school like Missouri to make the move, too.
I think a 16-team SEC is where the league is headed with Florida State and Clemson likely contenders to come into the league.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss look like they have been gearing up  for any potential moves.
Just last week, Ole Miss officials announced a $150 million fund raising campaign, along with plans to replace the university’s basketball facility and improve Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The University said $100 million from premium seating charges in both venues and $50 million from philanthropic donations.
In addition to the new basketball facility and football stadium improvements, plans call for creation of a Hall of Fame to showcase Ole Miss Athletics history.
Meanwhile, MSU has been working on a plan, raising funds, for expansion of Davis-Wade Stadium by 5,000 to 7,000 seats at a potential cost of $100 million.

A rendering of what Davis-Wade Stadium at Mississippi State will look like when expansion is complete.on.

A football-specific facility, which would house offices and more, would be part of the deals as would upgrades to MSU’s outdoor practice fields.
Completion could be ready in the next couple of years.
For now, it appears Mississippi’s two SEC schools are finanacially prepared to take on the added challenge of  Texas A&M and whoever else comes calling in a new-look super league.
The question left is how quickly all of this could happen.
Some reports show a deal between A&M and the SEC as imminent with the Aggies coming on board for the 2012 football season. Other reports show the deal making A&M ready for 2013.
Either way, money talks and the SEC is rarely on the short end of the stick. Landing A&M would mean millions in TV money for the league and ultimately billions if it lures the likes of FSU and Clemson down the road.
I’d be willing to bet my lunch money Georgia Tech and Tulane wish they had never left the league way back when.

Ron Franklin dumped by ESPN for offensive remarks in workplace

January 3rd, 2011 Comments off

Yeah, we do things a little different down here in the South.

In the workplace, the terms “honey” and “sweetie” are still tossed about from time to time, but you had better be careful about the way you use our special Southern terms, or it could end up costing you your job.

Southern gentleman and longtime sportscaster Ron Franklin learned that the hard way.

Franklin, an Ole Miss alum and Oxford native, was pulled from the radio broadcast of Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl following his sexist comment toward a female sideline reporter. Franklin, 68, reportedly referred to Jeannine Edwards as “sweetcakes” during a production meeting when she attempted to join a discussion he was having with another announcer. When she complained, Franklin allegedly then swore at her. ESPN did not have time to find a replacement for Friday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl but made the move for Saturday.

The move comes just days after an ESPN anchor was suspended for plagiarizing a newspaper story. Will Selva admitted to copying all but a few words of a column on the Lakers written by Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register and using it on air.

Not a great week for ESPN folks, but you have to admit, it could be worse. Just ask the members of the Big 10 conference.