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Archive for October, 2009

No special session this week? (Updated)

October 28th, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace just got off the phone with one lawmaker who doesn’t plan to be in Jackson Friday for a special session to deal with a manufacturer who plans to build a facility in the Delta. According to speculation, a German maker of steel pipes would like to build a $300 million plant in Tunica, creating 500 jobs.

Gov. Haley Barbour announced last week at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob that he would call legislators to Jackson this week to offer the company a state-backed incentive package. Barbour has said state incentives would represent no more than 10 percent of the total cost of the project.

“That is correct,” said one lawmaker, who requested anonymity, when asked if the special session had been delayed. “The deal isn’t dead. They’re still trying to make it work, but it won’t be in time for anything to happen this week.” The lawmaker added the hold-up did not originate from the state or county level, but from the company.

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner would not comment.

Updated at 12:03 p.m. : A source who had just been briefed on the situation said it was a “coin flip” as to whether there would be a special session Friday.

Updated again at 1:12 p.m. : Barbour has just released a statement confirming that there will be no special session this week. In the statement, Barbour said the issue was not between the state and the company. Here is the full text of his statement:

The Special Session planned for Friday, October 30, has been postponed due to a technical issue unrelated to the proposed agreement between the company and the State.

“The company needs additional time to complete its preparations for executing the project, and we expect to call the Legislature in for a brief Special Session as soon as these preparations are complete.

“It is this Administration’s policy not to present projects to the Legislature until all details are finalized, even if the unresolved point is not between the company and the state.”

Natchez man offers solution to serious tailgating problem

October 23rd, 2009 1 comment

If you’ve ever had a tailgate marred by exhaustion from lugging coolers and chairs through the Grove searching for one tent among thousands that look the same, Zach Jex is here to help.

Jex, a 28-year-old attorney in Natchez, launched www.gamedaymap.com last Friday, a Web site that pinpoints tailgates anywhere on the Ole Miss campus.

Jex, who earned an undergraduate degree and a J.D. from Ole Miss, created Gameday Map out of necessity.

“We drive four hours there and you only have a couple of hours to meet up with whatever friends from college and their parents,” Jex said. “You just don’t want to spend that much time looking for them.”

Tagging a tailgate on the site’s map application is free and easy. After a quick registration, drag the tent icon to your location on the map. Give a rundown of the crowd, what there is to eat and drink, and you have a Web page devoted to your tailgate. Anybody who needs to can point their browser to Gameday Map and find you.

“It’s a pretty simple process,” Jex said.

Jex started working on the site about two months ago. He used a freelance Web site to hook up with developers in India to build it.

Getting Gameday Map up and running before the start of football season was important, Jex said, due to interest in the site likely to decline sharply once the season ends.

Although he missed the first two home games against Southeastern Louisiana and Alabama, Jex believes five games’ worth of data will provide a good look at the site’s viability. Including Arkansas tomorrow, the Rebels still face Northern Arizona, Tennessee and LSU in Oxford.

The first round of numbers look promising. Four days after it launched, Gameday Map had 5,565 page views, with each visitor flipping through an average of four pages. Thirty-seven tailgates had been tagged as of Friday morning.

“Way beyond what I thought,” is how Jex described the initial response. “Only about 10 percent of people who have done it are people I know. So it’s not just my friends signing up.”

Like it does for the sanity of Ole Miss fans, this football season carries a lot of weight for Jex and his site. He has already approached the Mississippi Technology Alliance about setting him up with investors. If this season goes well, Jex hopes to raise enough capital to add other campuses. “We’d like to do the entire SEC and then move to every college that wants it,” he said.

Barbour confirms special session for next week

October 21st, 2009 15 comments

Gov. Haley Barbour confirmed at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob this morning that he will call lawmakers to Jackson for a special session late next week to deal with an economic development project in the Delta. The project, Barbour said, is a $300 million advanced manufacturing deal that will crete 500 jobs. He didn’t offer any other details.

Obviously, the first thing that leaped to Magnolia Marketplace’s mind was GreenTech, the Chinese start-up that wants to build hybrid cars in Tunica. The job count or the cost Barbour announced doesn’t match, though. GreenTech’s first phase will cost $1 billion, according to the company, and create 1,500 jobs.

Speculation after Barbour’s announcement centered around some sort of steel manufacturing facility. Really, without somebody coming out and saying it, it will be hard to tell exactly what Barbour has up his sleeve. But Magnolia Marketplace is sure going to try to find out.

Updated at 1:02 p.m. : Just wrapped up a conversation with a source who requested anonymity, and who said that all signs point toward an automotive-related project in Tunica, but not GreenTech. Rather, the source said, an auto parts manufacturer is planning to set up shop. There were no details available as to the name of the company or if it was affiliated with either of the state’s current automotive manufacturers, Nissan or Toyota.

Special session on the way?

October 20th, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace has had a hard time getting anybody in state government to acknowledge the existence of GreenTech Automotive, the hybrid car manufacturer that has plans to build a facility in Tunica. Getting a comment on the record, to this point, has been impossible.

That trend continued this afternoon. There have been whispers the past few days that there was a special session in the works whose call would include GreenTech. Dan Turner, spokesman for Gov. Haley Barbour, said he had heard of some “discussions” regarding a special session but would not confirm or deny whether the agenda, which Barbour would control, would include GreenTech. For that matter, Turner did not confirm or deny there would even be a special session.

“There’s just not much I can tell you,” he said.

So that’s where we are. Magnolia Marketplace will be at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob tomorrow. Barbour is scheduled to speak. We’ll ask him about it then.

More layoffs at Viking Range

October 19th, 2009 4 comments

The Viking Classic tees off next week at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, an event that brings a lot of positive exposure to Greenwood-based Viking Range.

That’s about the extent of the good news, though. The Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper reported in its Friday edition that Viking has laid off 30 more workers in an effort to cut costs. The company has been hit pretty hard by the downturn in new housing construction.

Overall, the Commonwealth reports, Viking has cut 327 jobs, or about 23 percent of its total workforce, since April 2008. This will add to Leflore County’s already bleak unemployment situation. In August, the latest month for which figures are available, 12.2 percent of the county’s population did not hold a job.

For the full story, click here.

Categories: Manufacturing, News, Viking Range Tags:

Hudson Holliday lays out his platform

October 16th, 2009 No comments

First-term Pearl River County District 3 Supervisor Hudson Holliday retired from the Mississippi Army National Guard in 2004 as a one-star general.

His campaign for the Republican nomination for governor is less than a week old, but he’s already bringing a military style to it. It could be summed up in three words.

Ready.

“I feel compelled to do it,” Holliday said.

Aim.

“I really do think that people are fed up with professional politicians,” he continued.

Fire.

“Phil Bryant was a deputy sheriff (before serving in the Legislature and then being appointed to the State Auditor’s office). What does he know? He’s never created the first job. He has never hired anybody. He’s never paid workman’s comp insurance on anybody. He’s never had to deal with withholdings or regulations. Now he’s been in Jackson (for several years). He’s just moved up that political ladder. What does he know about that contractor that’s out there in the mud trying to build a building? He’s never been there.”

Then Holliday reloaded.

“What in the world does Tate Reeves know about what’s going on out in the (rural areas)? He’s a bean counter. Did he ever serve in the military?”

Spokespersons for Bryant and Reeves did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Holliday’s campaign will attempt to draw a contrast between him and Bryant, the lieutenant governor who has said he will seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2011; and Reeves, the Republican state treasurer who has not committed one way or the other as far as 2011 goes but is thought to a strong possibility for the governor’s race.

In about a 22-minute conversation with Magnolia Marketplace this morning, Holliday touted his experience in the small business world. His background is diverse. He has owned and operated a construction company, developed subdivisions as a homebuilder, established a crop-dusting service, farmed and run a timber-cutting business.

He also served as a deputy sheriff under his brother, the former sheriff of Pearl River County.

“There’s not a whole lot that goes on in Mississippi that I don’t understand,” Holliday, 65, said. “I’ll just be honest with you, I’m tired. I’m tired of us leaving our future up to professional politicians that too often, not all of them, are more concerned about their future than they are ours. They’re just looking for the next ladder to climb instead of making hard decisions.”

Holliday said he’s mulled over the idea of running for governor for about six months. He will run as a Republican, he said, but he’s “not proud of either one of the parties. I think they’re the downfall of this country, to tell you the truth. I’m not sure a Democrat could be elected in a governor’s race.

“I believe good government suffers when good people don’t get involved. I’m going to get involved. I’m not going to sit at the house and complain about the way things are when I know I can do something about it.”

Holliday was elected to his current post last year. It was the first time he had jumped into the political arena. He realizes that name recognition and fundraising ability will be major issues against opponents who have plenty of both.

He’s depending on his time in the military to spread the word about his candidacy.

“When I was in the Guard, I had units from Southaven to Pascagoula, from West Point to Vicksburg, all those units reported to me,” Holliday said. “They know who I am. The Guard won’t elect you, but it is a seed source that I can expand to just about every community in this state. I assure you the Guard will be behind me 100 percent. That opens doors for me to come into North Mississippi.”

Magnolia Marketplace was unable to confirm Holliday’s assertion that he is the first sitting county supervisor to seek the governor’s office. He hopes his experience with the ground level of politics will gain him the support of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors.

“That’s the political leaders in every county,” he said. “The majority of supervisors are Democrat. If I could get through the Republican nomination I will pick up a lot of the Democratic supervisors. They realize that I understand the problems that they face.”

The role of governor, Holliday believes, should be built around two things: Developing a vision for the state and providing the leadership to get there. If the state were a group of folks walking through the woods in the dark, he said, the governor should be the one holding a flashlight.

“You’re destined to look where the guy that has the flashlight is shining the light. His job is to lead us out of the woods and onto the highway of prosperity.”

An antique car enthusiast, Holliday is already rebuilding a 1942 International pickup and plans to outfit it with campaign billboards in time to drive it across the state visiting coffee shops, cafes, truck stops and restaurants and community festivals.

“I’m never gonna have the money Phil Bryant and those guys are going to have,” Holliday said. “It’s going to be a battle but I think people are hungry. I’m one of us. That’s the message.”

New GOP candidate for governor?

October 15th, 2009 No comments

A few weeks ago I wrote a story taking a look at some of the names that have surfaced as candidates for the Republican nomination in the 2011 governor’s race. The consensus from everybody I talked to was that Gulfport businessman Dave Dennis and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant were sure things, and that a few statewide office-holders like Treasurer Tate Reeves, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and State Auditor Stacey Pickering were possibilities.

Now comes news that Pearl River County Supervisor Hudson Holliday has plans to enter the fray. Holliday is quoted in the Picayune Item as saying he’s “fed up with professional politicians.” Obviously, Holliday has an uphill climb to garner name recognition outside Pearl River County, which entails raising piles of money. At the very least, he will be hard to forget. Hudson Holliday could easily have been the name of a Wild West character. Get the full story here.

Categories: Elections, News, Politics Tags:

Recapping a weird week in the state’s auto manufacturing

October 9th, 2009 1 comment

I’ll have a pretty in-depth look at GreenTech Automotive’s CEO Charles Wang’s plans to build a multi-billion dollar hybrid vehicle manufacturing facility in Tunica in next week’s MBJ.

The strangest thing about Tuesday’s event was the apparent lack of a strong marketing push in advance of it. There were several media outlets across Mississippi — Magnolia Marketplace included — that had no idea the deal was going down when it did. That coupled with the absence of some high-profile politicians and economic development leaders have a lot of folks asking a lot of questions about the odds of the project ever getting off the ground. That’s covered in the story.

It’s probably safe to say this isn’t the last we’ve heard from GreenTech. So stay tuned.

It also looks like the rain is going to last a little longer than it needs to, at least long enough to make rather unpleasant the drive Magnolia Marketplace and the Official Fiance of Magnolia Marketplace are about to make up I-55 for the football frivolity in Oxford.

Have a good weekend.

Categories: Economic development, GreenTech Tags:

New automotive plant in Tunica?

October 6th, 2009 No comments

Updated at 3:15 p.m.: Here is the official GreenTech press release.

A start-up automotive company unveiled prototypes of the cars it one day hopes to build at a plant in Tunica.

Chinese businessman Charles Wang, CEO of GreenTech Automotive, said in a press release, according to the Associated Press, that he hopes to build 250,000 hybrid vehicles a year at the $6 billion plant on a 1,500 acre mega-site in Tunica County.

Employment at the plant, according to Wang, would hover around 4,500.

To this point, scarce few details have been made available from Wang, Gov. Haley Barbour’s office or the Mississippi Development Authority. An MDA representative reached by Magnolia Marketplace declined comment this morning, citing confidentiality agreements.

For details on this morning’s unveiling ceremony, click here.

Keenum: MSU “not prepared” for more cuts this fiscal year

October 5th, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace has been going to the monthly lunch meetings of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps for three months shy of two years, and today’s crowd to hear MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum was easily the biggest in that time.

Keenum seemed genuinely surprised at how many folks showed up. “I figured there would be a couple dozen people and one or two members of the press,” he said. Instead, the largest room in the University Club was filled. There were probably close to 100 people in attendance.

Keenum started his 37-minute speech with some good financial news. He said private donations in fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30, were up 20 percent compared with FY08. “And we’re running way ahead of this time last year,” Keenum said.

His discussion of the public funding front wasn’t nearly as positive.

The Institutions of Higher Learning, MSU included, took a 5 percent hit to its budget early last month when Gov. Haley Barbour had to trim $170 million from the FY10 budget because tax revenue in July and August fell short of expectations.

Higher education and K-12 education took the brunt of the cuts, because their budgets had been cut less than other departments during the several rounds of belt-tightening in FY09. Education overall has now been cut by 5 percent.

Keenum said he instructed his department heads at the beginning of this fiscal year to operate on the assumption that there would be a 5 percent cut before next July, when FY11 started. Three months into FY10, that became a reality.

“I’m not prepared for any other cuts,” Keenum said, “but I’ve been told that may become a reality (before the fiscal  year ends).”

IHL Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds was one of several state agency  heads who recently wrapped up their FY11 budget requests to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, in which all were told that the funding pool is already shallow and is almost guaranteed to continue to shrink.

Mississippi State’s enrollment is up 800 students over last year, which will make up about 40 percent of the shortfall left by the 5 percent in cuts, Keenum said. If cuts exceed 5 percent for the year, Keenum promised he would do “everything I can” to minimize the impact on MSU employees but did not rule out layoffs as a cost-cutting measure.

He also said he would not be in favor of implementing a hiring freeze. “We’re not going to let the quality of our product deteriorate. There’s not another state in the nation as dependent on higher education as Mississippi.”

Categories: Colleges and universities, News Tags: