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Posts Tagged ‘West Point’

Going to West Point for Rotary Club visit

December 7th, 2011 Comments off

As we are trying to put the finishing touches on the MBJ’s printed edition for Dec. 12 (Monday), I am also preparing to travel to West Point tomorrow (Thursday) for a visit with its local Rotary Club.

I am looking forward to going and talking with the group. I have a lot of family and friends in the area. So, I am sure it will be a lot of fun.

I get to chat with civic organizations from time to time. Having been the program director, once upon a time, for the Greenville Rotary Club, I know it is hard to come up with quality programs on a week-in and week-out basis.

What a quality program is to one person may not be to another, but if other civic groups or any organization are looking for a program, I, or someone from the Mississippi Business Journal, will be happy to add it to our calendar.

I am always looking to preach the gospel of the MBJ. So, give me a call at 601-364-1018 or e-mail me at ross.reily@msbusiness.com.

I’ll let y’all know how everything goes in West Point.

Snake-oil salesmen make a killing in the name of economic development

December 1st, 2011 3 comments

Most every little town in Mississippi — from the Tennessee line to the Gulf of Mexico — has an economic development arm.

Presidents of growth alliances, economic development associations, or whatever each town prefers to call its version, routinely make anywhere from $60,000 to more than $100,000 to lure big business to small-town Mississippi. We are talking about paying that kind of money in towns with populations ranging from 9,000 to around 20,000.

In many cases, the economic development expert has left one small town for another, hoping to accomplish in the latter what he or she failed to accomplish in the former.

It’s not necessary for these towns to pay that kind of money for an “Economic Development President” to travel, eat nice meals and make phone calls when — in most cases — the only thing the town gets in return is a fatter, more well-traveled “Economic Development President.”

While some may argue that now — in this economic climate — is the absolute best time to hire aggressive economic developers, this really is the worst time to waste money when other more productive and important departments — like fire and police services or education — are being cut to the bone or cut out all-together.

We scream about wasteful government spending on the national level. Yet, when there is duplicitous spending on the local level, we find ways to rationalize the process. There is no reason to have small-town economic developers when, just up the road, there is generally an economic development agency that serves the entire region — such as the statewide Mississippi Development Authority.

There have been calls at the national level of getting rid of large-scale economic development agencies, such as — although not specifically mentioned — the MDA.

In an op-ed to The Wall Street Journal in June, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a Tea Party stalwart dedicated to reducing the size of the government, called for the elimination of the Economic Development Administration. He says the EDA’s efforts duplicate existing federal programs.

While I am certain there is much fat to be trimmed, the MDA’s overall work is needed to facilitate economic progress.

Towns need to think about consolidating, using existing services and working regionally. The best example of regionalism at work in the last 50 years in Mississippi is in Northeast Mississippi, where companies have located in and around Tupelo with little selfish pushback in individual communities.

Toyota recognized that, and placed its new production facility near the interstate-like U.S. 78 and U.S. 45 intersection as people from as far away as Corinth, Columbus, Oxford and across the state line in Alabama will drive to Blue Springs to work.

The bottom line is that in small towns around the state, essential services like police, fire, education and infrastructure repairs are being slashed or eliminated in the name of fiscal responsibility. In the mean time, as much as $100,000 is being handed out to the president of an economic development organization who is making claims of working hard on the next big thing — when the only thing of significance that might be getting done is making sure the local farmers market has a clean working area for the spring and summer months.

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.

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.

What would John Bryan say?

August 9th, 2010 Comments off

The news has come down that Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes will step down permanently from her position as chairman and chief executive officer.

Barnes had been on temporary medical leave since May 14 after suffering a stroke. The company says the 56-year-old is leaving the post to continue focusing on improving her health.

Barnes is the second CEO of Sara Lee since Mississippi native John Bryan retired in 2001.

While economic conditions haven’t been the best in the last couple of years, it is worth noting the Sara Lee stock has dropped nearly 30 percent in the decade since it was announced that Bryan was going to retire

Barnes is leaving her position on Sara Lee Corp.’s board of directors. Marcel Smits, who has been handling the CEO duties in her place will continue to do so until a new CEO is named.