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Posts Tagged ‘Jackson’

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.

DuPree will be no pushover against Bryant in governor’s race

August 22nd, 2011 Comments off

The first time I ever met Johnny DuPree, he had been holding court in my office for about 30 minutes before I ever walked in the door.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree

One of our reporters was using my office for the interview, and when I walked in, I was in a hurry but didn’t want to be rude. I mean he was running for governor. I thought I would listen a couple of minutes, and then slip out the door with my briefcase.

Forty-five minutes later, I was having a philisophical conversation with the Hattiesburg mayor about education in Mississippi.

I was totally entralled. On education, at least, I wasn’t sure if all of his ideas would work, but I knew he would make a decision, if he were governor, and stick by it.

It was that day, I knew he would give Clarksdale atorney Bill Luckett a run for his money for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Hell, he might even win, I thought.

Well, last night, DupRee smoked Luckett in the Democratic runoff, becoming the first black candidate to win major-party nod for the state’s top job.

DuPree, 57, advances to the Nov. 8 general election to face Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, 56, of Brandon. Bryant already has spent $3.1 million on his campaign — more than twice as much as DuPree and Luckett, combined.

For months, Bryant has been all but given the throne to the kingdom, the heir apparent to Gov. Haley Barbour.

Bryant, may win — may win. But, it won’t be because DuPree isn’t a worthy opponent.

Don’t sit back and assume he won’t be there when the confetti cannon goes, because DuPree has come to play and he didn’t leave his ball at home.

‘The Help’ gets a thumbs up from the old, bald editor

August 20th, 2011 Comments off

My wife and I went to see “The Help” Wednesday, and I have mixed feelings about the movie. I loved being able to watch the movie and pick out people that I know as extras (Mr. Lt. Gov. Bill Crump!). It’s fun to see places on the big screen that you have seen every day of your life.

And while I enjoyed the movie (laughing and crying in the appropriate places), it gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Yet again, Mississippians are being shown for having been racists and treating people as lesser folks. It’s sad, but the fact of the matter is, the movie is accurate.

We are who we are and we have to admit where we have been before we can see where we are going.

There are those at The Boston Globe who believe we, as America, are looking back at racism and patting ourselves on the back. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We, as the people in the theater — in Madison, Mississippi — watched and knew there is still room for all of us to grow.

Kathryn Stockett should be applauded for her book and now movie, and we should all be aware of the changes we still have to make in order for all of us to move forward together. And apparently, the rest of the country likes it as well.

Without giving away anything, I loved Cicely Tyson in her role as one of the maids. She didn’t have a ton of lines, but her role and her portrayal of it were powerful. My pick for funniest is when Sissy Spacek’s character walks past her daughter and the two exchange words. Priceless.

By the way, the popcorn was great!

Here are what some other folks thought …

••• ABC News

••• Baltimore Sun

••• San Jose Mercury News

••• Variety Reviews

••• Entertainment Weekly

••• Moviefone

••• Salon.com

••• UK Progressive

••• Indie Wire

••• Your Houston News

Click here to let us know what you think of the movie …

People will come Ray; they will come for B.B.

May 27th, 2011 Comments off

Hey, I realize it’s baseball season, and the Red Sox are on a roll, but please forgive me because I apparently have the movie “Field of Dreams” on my mind.
I think I even responded to my wife, Sarah, last night, saying, “It’s OK, honey. I… I was just talking to the cornfield.”
Fantasy is fun to play with from time to time. You know, you see a billboard that reads, “Lottery, $125 million,” and you immediately begin to think about what you would do with the money.
Uh, No. 1, buy a luxury suite at Fenway Park.
Oh, sorry.
Dreaming?
Well, I must be, because the Mississippi Business Journal has reported that the Farish Street Entertainment District boondoggle that everyone (I mean everyone) said would never happen, has signed a 15-year lease with an old blues guy.
Maybe you know of him.
He’s from Indianola — a guy by the name of Riley.
No, he’s not my cousin. We spell ours funny.
Anyway, I think his momma was the only one to call him that.
Most folks just call him B.B.
Yep, the B.B. King’s Blues Club, in conjunction with Beale Street Blues Co., has signed a 15-year lease on the former Star Laundry building on Farish Street, putting in place a key element in the plans of Watkins Development to bring life back to a street that once served as a key entertainment and shopping destination for Jackson’s African-American residents.
Build it and they will come, the voice in the cornfield said.
Well, if there were ever time to believe the voice, now may be it.
When I lived in Greenville years ago, there were lots of swirling rumors that representatives of B.B. King were involved to financing everything from a downtown entertainment district to a casino and blues museum.
However, King’s representatives would never comment when we called for confirmation.
So, imagine my level of scoffing when I arrived in Jackson three years ago and immediately led on a tour of the proposed Farish Street project with the dream of having B.B. King anchor the district.
Yeah, well, I had heard that song and dance before.
OK, so now I am on board.
If B.B. King’s Blues Club indeed arrives at the corners of Amite and Farish as the anchor for the entire district, you can begin the countdown on the announcement that success has been realized in the revitalization of downtown Jackson.
There will still be doubters. There always are, but “Ray, people will come.
“They’ll come to (Jackson) for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up (on Farish Street) not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive … as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere … (like) when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch … and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. But (blues) has marked the time. This (place) … it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
Sure, I know I am the crazy guy in the cornfield, but I believe that an event like this can be the tipping point for an entire community, a business district and ultimately a city.
People will come.

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

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.

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 …

Loyal customers, even those running, are the easiest to catch

December 3rd, 2010 Comments off

Somewhere after Eschman Avenue turned into Waverly Road in Clay County a couple of weeks ago, I forgot that my actual goal was to log 20 miles of running at one time.

Normally, my Saturday runs are organized with dozens of fellow runners along the trails and through the streets of Ridgeland and Madison.

Yet, this Thanksgiving weekend, the peaceful surroundings of rolling hills, lakes and farmland made the training run like a Sunday afternoon drive.

Only near the end did I realize there was real effort involved in finishing this adventure.

All of this is part of the larger scheme of running in the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson on Jan. 8.
I have always been a big fan of running and admired the ability of true professional runners. I have even done a little running from time to time during the years, hitting the occasional local 5K and 10K along the way.
However, my running exploits never lasted long enough to become a locked-in part of my life. I talked a good game to my wife and anyone else who would listen – if I run this way or that way, etc., I can lose weight – blah, blah, blah.

I talked so much that my wife even told me to either start running or shut up.

Finally in May, I began to jog a little to see if I was prepared to back up what I had been talked about for years and years.

And somewhere along the way, I guess like my run through Clay County on Thanksgiving weekend, I forgot this marathon thing was supposed to be hard work. It had become fun, actually enjoyable and relaxing, even when it was cold or raining or when my lungs screamed at me because we had run a little further and farther than we had before.

The hardest part became scheduling around work and family and friends and the everyday duties of life.
One of the things that has made the process easier has been the training program provided by Fleet Feet of Ridgeland.

Its “Running 201″ is a 25-week program designed to help you complete a marathon or half-marathon or improve on performance from previous races.

The design is to get anyone who wants to through 13.1 or 26.2 miles at the Mississippi Blues Marathon, and the program includes lots of nifty perks, like special shopping nights, gear and registration in the race.
There’s a support team of store staff as well as former participants in the program that help get you safely through two group runs a week. Even after the runs, there is always someone willing to provide advice or suggestions if you need it the rest of the week, when the runs are usually on your own.

The concept, obviously, is not new. However, the Fleet Feet crew does a great job and over the years, the process has helped build a significant running community in Jackson and even throughout the state.
What Fleet Feet has also done is put together a pretty good business model.

Sure, when I have needed help to get moving, there has been someone to provide a pat on the back or a kick in the rear.

When I needed to know if that pain in my knee should be cause for alarm, there was a responsible person there for an answer or a suggestion of where to go for a better answer.

And when I needed to change clothes from work before taking off on a run along the Ridgeland trails, there was a dressing room waiting for me.

But there is also lots of running and fitness gear to be bought, and Fleet Feet has done a great job of providing a service as well as a need for runners and walkers in the area.

If you participate in one of the many training programs and get to know the staff, it becomes difficult to buy shoes or socks or shirts anywhere. There’s a loyalty factor that is built in to the help provided for prospective runners.

None of this is a negative.

It’s proof positive that if you provide a worthy product along with good service and back it up with friendly advice and an inviting environment, customers are more likely to grow attached and want to spend their money there.

These training programs should serve as a model to other businesses, particularly small, locally-owned business.
Provide a quality product, back it up with service and become an integral part of the community you hope to sell to and there is success to be had, even in a down economy.
This year, more than 160 are part of the “Running 201″ program. That’s 160 more committed customers getting ready to participate in a community event.
How many more Fleet Feet training alumni will be running in the Mississippi Blues Marathon? The number is probably more than 1,000.

As for me, I will see you at the finish line.

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

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