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Posts Tagged ‘Gov. Haley Barbour’

Bynum will be remembered for great, thought-provoking work

September 4th, 2011 1 comment

News that former Mississippi Business Journal editor and co-owner Buddy Bynum passed away this weekend is dispiriting for our newsroom. Bynum has long been held as the best and most thoughtful editor the paper has had in in its 30-plus year history.

James L. "Buddy" Bynum was editor of the Mississippi Business Journal from 1993-1997.

As the new editor of the MBJ three years ago, I began to go through old copies of the publication to see what had been done in the past. It didn’t take long to figure out that trying to match the writing and thought-provoking work of Bynum was going to be a work in vain.

He was the straw that stirred the drink, and if there was anyone that helped put the MBJ on the map, it was, without doubt, Buddy Bynum.

Bynum was with the MBJ from 1993-1997 and then served as the editor of his hometown paper — The Meridian Star — from 2000-2005. He also served as an aide to Gov. Haley Barbour and former Sen. Trent Lott.

There will be many great moments in the years to come at the Mississippi Business Journal, but the memory of Bynum will serve as a great reminder of what every journalist that walks through these doors must live up to in the future.

We will all miss Buddy immensely.

Changes hit Laurel Leader-Call but newspaper industry holds important place

September 2nd, 2011 1 comment

Every time, I have a tough day at work, I take a look at the trailer for “Page One” about the New York Times, and I get a little more energized. While I haven’t seen the complete documentary yet, I understand that regardless of what happens in new world media, serious newspapers will always have a place in this world.

Do we really think Facebook is going to cover your local Board of Supervisors meetings?

I think not.

So, Friday, when I saw the Laurel Leader-Call is changing from seven-day to a four-day publication, I was saddened, but I know — deep down — that newspaper will be OK.

The economy and new world media may have eaten away at profits during the years, but do we really think the local TV station is going to cover everything that Laurel has going on? Oh yeah, there is no local TV station in Laurel. Are all of the folks on Facebook in Laurel going to hold the mayor accountable with investigative stories? I’m saying no.

And in 140 characters or less, will the tweeters of Laurel be able to handle the news of the day?

The fact is your local newspaper, while it may not be The New York Times or the Chicago Tribune or the Washington Post, it probably does a pretty good job of keeping you up on the real news affecting the area readership. Reading the stories about the board of supervisors or the local police department may not always be riveting, but it’s the local newspaper everyone calls when they feel like there is a fly in the ointment of local government.

Newspapers, like the Laurel Leader-Call, are a necessary part of our everyday lives. Don’t believe Facebook or any other new media will take its place.

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.

Blues Trail iPhone app is really cool; plus blues fans will love it

August 12th, 2011 Comments off

In a crazy, kind-of, cosmic way, the stars allied for me yesterday in way that would cause my wife to say, “You really are a nerd, aren’t you?”

Following the Creative Economy Summit this week at the Jackson Convention Center, I learned that the Mississippi Blues Trail mobile app is now available for download.

And it’s free.

Well, hell. You can’t beat that.

As a confessed iPhone and iPad app junkie, I was pretty happy. Combine that with a real love of the Blues, and I was in hog heaven.

It took me exactly 12 seconds to find the app and begin downloading. From there, I was pretty much worthless the rest of the day.

I spent parts of the rest of the day scrolling through the names, the maps and watching the videos that are part of the app.

The main menu consists of six main buttons:

Map — Powered by Google Maps, users can see the location of every marker and zoom in to a specific site; when they click on any marker icon, it will take them to the individual page about that marker.

Timeline — By scrolling and expanding, users can see which artists were contemporaries and what historical events were happening that were associated with blues music.

Markers — By following this link, users get several options: first an alphabetical list of markers appears; then buttons at the top of that page allow users to sort by distance from their location. This is especially helpful to travelers who want to locate nearby markers. After users go to a specific marker link, they have the option to add it to their itinerary. Each marker page includes the address of the site, the main text from the front and back of the marker and photos. There are also direct links to the iTunes store, so users can listen to a preview of an artist’s song and then purchase and download the music on the spot.

Itinerary — After markers are added to the itinerary, this page allows users to see the route that has been mapped for them, including turn-by-turn directions to each site.

People — This button shows individuals who are mentioned on markers and links back to the pages they are associated with.

Videos — Users can view a 4 ½-minute introduction video about the Mississippi Blues Trail and several videos for specific markers around the state.

All of that and it’s free.

According to the press release from the MDA, funding for the development project was provided by a grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and the Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division. Greenwood, Miss.-based Hammons and Associates acts as project manager for the Mississippi Blues Trail and partnered with Starkville -based Concept House in development.

So, here I go, looking for Howlin’ Wolf, my favorite bluesman. I scroll down and there he is, and with a click, there are album covers, followed by trail markers that are associated with him, of which there were 16 (gotta be a record, but don’t go checking behind me).

Then I clicked on the markers section and — hailing from Cleveland —  began to look for the marker in Dockery, between Cleveland and Ruleville on Mississippi 8. And sure enough, under Birthplace of the Blues, there it was. It detailed the Dockery Farms location as “one of the primal centers for the music in Mississippi.”

The intermittent home of the great Charlie Patton, Dockery was a place of great interest to me as a kid, and still is.

I say all of that to say that whether you are a big blues fan or not, it is a super cool app.

Get it, download it today — right now.

Did I mention that it is free.

However, it is currently available only for iPhones, which is OK since I have an iPhone.

Barbour omits Republican criticism of nuclear energy plants

February 17th, 2011 1 comment

In a speech you can watch on MBJ-TV, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour hammered “the left” and “environmentalists” as the only critics of nuclear energy in America.

“They don’t like nuclear because — I don’t know why they don’t like it,” Barbour said. “They’re afraid of it.”

Barbour went on to say that nuclear energy was of “no more risk than any other type power plant.

Yet, in a Feb. 9 Associated Press story, Republican Sens. James Inhofe and David Vitter are accusing federal nuclear regulators of applying differing standards in reviewing nuclear plants’ applications for relicensing — one for when they draw strong opposition and another for when they don’t.

They say the leading examples are the Pilgrim nuclear station in Plymouth, Mass., and the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon, Vt., whose owner, Entergy Corp., applied for 20-year license extensions for the two on the same day, Jan. 27, 2006. The reviews for those plants just passed the five-year mark, and are the tied for the longest it has taken the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine and approve such an application, a process that usually takes 22 to 30 months, said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

Inhofe, of Oklahoma, is the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which oversees the NRC. He’s been a longtime champion of nuclear power.

Vitter represents Louisiana, Entergy’s home state. He has received $20,000 in campaign contributions from the company since the 2002 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington-based group that tracks money in politics.

More oil rigs in Gulf than before BP oil spill

February 4th, 2011 Comments off

According to The Times Picayune in New Orleans …

While a backlog of drilling permits in Washington continues to feed oil industry angst, new data shows that more rigs are in the Gulf of Mexico than before the BP oil spill, indicating that operators might have more confidence in the future than they are letting on.

While only 34 of the 125 rigs in the Gulf are actually working — half the total that were active before the Macondo well blowout — the vast majority of the idle rigs, particularly those slated for big-ticket jobs in deepwater, will remain under contract for the rest of 2011.

The latest tracking information from ODS-Petrodata, a Houston-based compiler of oil and gas data, shows there are 10 more rigs in the Gulf now than there were last April.

While only 34 of the 125 rigs in the Gulf are actually working — half the total that were active before the Macondo well blowout — the vast majority of the idle rigs, particularly those slated for big-ticket jobs in deepwater, will remain under contract for the rest of 2011.

In the shallow-water Gulf oil fields, where the government has never officially banned drilling but has issued few work permits in the past several months, activity has rebounded to near its pre-blowout levels.

There are 26 shallow-water rigs operating now, just 11 fewer than before the BP blowout, according to ODS-Petrodata. In December, the government issued seven shallow-water drilling permits, matching the monthly average from the year leading up to the BP disaster.

There are also signs of renewal in the more lucrative deepwater fields.

••• 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 immigration bill devastating to the Mississippi business community

January 27th, 2011 Comments off

A Mississippi House bill passed Thursday afternoon places the burden of responsibility for illegal immigration on the employers of the state

Thursday’s 80-36 vote came after a short explanation and no debate.

The bill would also allow law officers to check people’s immigration status during traffic stops or other encounters.

POLL QUESTION: Are you for a new House bill that is tough on immigration in Mississippi, but also tough on business employers?

However, the business community has now been placed squarely at the forefront of the immigration debate as the House bill calls for fines of a minimum of $5,000 per day per employee to a maximum for $25,000 per day per employee.

And that applies to small and large businesses as well as everyday citizens, who might have an undocumented housekeeper or lawn service worker.

Businesses found to have broken the law would lose all tax breaks and incentives provided for them and a clawback provision would force previous offenders to pay back money already credited to them over a period of time.

“Illegal aliens are not coming to Mississippi to sell drugs,” David Norquist (D-Cleveland) said Thursday afternoon. “They are here to make money and send that money out of Mississippi and back to Mexico to support their families and the economies of the towns the families live in.

“What we have here with this bill is the penalties have to outweigh the risk of hiring illegal aliens,” Norquist continued. “If employers weren’t hiring illegal aliens, there wouldn’t be an illegal alien issue in Mississippi.”

With the shift of emphasis from law enforcement to Mississippi employers, the bill would make a fund in which all of the fines, from $5,000 to $25,000 a day, would go to re-imburse officials enforcing the law.

This leaves Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant in a precarious position as this bill moves into the Senate.

Does Bryant back the bill, which is tough on immigration?

Or will Bryant back the business community and water down or kill the bill?

On the enforcement side, the state auditor will have the authority to chase offenders, which leaves open the possibility of Howard Industries having to pay back more than $3 million in incentives after a human resources manager was charged after a sweep saw 595 illegal aliens placed on administrative arrest. Of those arrested, nine were charged criminally with aggravated identity theft and ultimately pled guilty to federal identity fraud charges.

Pro-business organizations, like the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Mississippi as well as BIPEC (Business and Industry Political Education Committee) are certain to take a hard stand against the bill.

Meanwhile, organizations like the Tea Party are likely to support the bill as hard on illegal immigration.

Perception hard to avoid with feet in your mouth

January 14th, 2011 Comments off

Quick, which state is last in healthcare?
Education?
Race relations?
Gov. Haley Barbour, while I am sure he already knew, is getting a full dose of perception as he prepares to announce whether he is going to run for president in 2012.
Just last week, a headline on the Bloomberg website read, “Barbour’s Comments on Kidneys, Klan Underscore Struggles in Mississippi”.
The story, in part, went on as such:
Governor Haley Barbour’s boyhood memories of Mississippi’s civil-rights strife are diverting attention from his stewardship of a state that might be the launchpad for a 2012 presidential run.
Supporters say Barbour, a 63-year-old Republican who has led Mississippi for seven years, has been the state’s biggest booster, getting re-elected with a 58 percent majority even as he increased taxes and spending. The former lobbyist and Republican National Committee chairman led the recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He lured employers including General Electric Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. to expand, though the state remains ranked last in per-capita income and education.
That record has been overshadowed in the past two weeks by criticism of his views on race, an inescapable issue in a state where segregationist violence disenfranchised blacks for generations.

We like to think we have moved on.
But stories like this always seem to pop up.
When then Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm took shots at Mississippi a couple of years ago, we were all appalled.
Granholm was defending tax increases when she said, “Now is the time to stand up for those priorities. What we’re fighting for is Michigan not becoming Mississippi.”
We threw all kinds of stats at her, including how Mississippi’s unemployment rate was much lower than in Michigan.
“Shame on you Governor Granholm,” Mississippi’s State Senator Dean Kirby wrote in an e-mail. “Have you compared your tax structure to that of Mississippi? Have you ever been to Mississippi? Shame, shame shame !!”
Shame, shame, shame, indeed.
OK, now let’s take a look at the real issue here, whether it be about the Barbour story or the Michigan story — perception.
We still have a perception problem. Folks around the country view us as uneducated and backwoods.
We know that’s not true.
But it wasn’t so long ago that New York’s Charles Rangel made similar comments that enraged us all. Instead of firing back, we must do a better job of educating folks about our wonderful slice of the South.
It should be pointed out that whatever music Granholm listens to likely was born in Mississippi.
She should be reminded that every major form of music in America got its roots in Mississippi — from Elvis Presley and rock n roll in Tupelo to country and western in Meridian to blues and jazz in the Mississippi Delta.
Gov. Granholm should be reminded of the great literature and writers who have come from Mississippi — from Faulkner to Welty.
We also would like to point out the great journalism tradition that we have in Mississippi ranging from Pulitzer winners of the 1940s with the Delta Democrat Times to a 2006 Pulitzer winner in the Sun Herald of Biloxi.
Mississippi is a wonderful place, and we would like the opportunity to show everyone what we are talking about.
Having said all of that, there are plenty of reasons that Mississippi isn’t always at the top of the popularity list.
We all know the reasons — education, racial tensions, etc.
But we can’t make the outside world’s job easy. Gov. Barbour has got to be smarter about what he says, regardless of whether is running for president.
He is still representing all of us out there. And when he makes comments like he has made recently, he gives the Rangels and Granholms and Bloombergs of the world ammunition to use.
In this world, we either do or don’t, all on our own. We have to make our own way. We created the perception that others have of us and we must make the difference in changing that perception.
First, we must own up to it.
Second, we must do differently than we did.
If we don’t, we deserve what we get.

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