Archive for August, 2010

Despite weather, The Depot thrives

August 30th, 2010 No comments

The Depot Memorial charity golf tournament was rained out this weekend.

That’s about the only thing that went wrong.

Held at Windance Golf Club in Gulfport, and named after the former bar by the railroad tracks, The Depot has become a popular draw in its five years. This was Magnolia Marketplace’s second year to participate in it.

The rainy weather didn’t completely kill the tournament. A putting contest broke out in the Windance clubhouse, with a coffee mug serving as the cup. The door prizes were still given away, and the food and beverages got consumed. Depot organizers said 80 golfers showed up.

Its obligations to its participants met, The Depot still managed to fulfill its most important promise: benefitting Feed My Sheep, a faith-based organization that provides physical and spiritual nourishment to the Coast’s needy.

Geoffrey Knesal, an assistant project manager for Roy Anderson Corp. and one of The Depot’s organizers, said earlier today that the tournament set a record for contributions, and donated $10,000 to Feed My Sheep.

“We are very excited about the donation we’re able to make to a very worthy charity down here on the coast,” Knesal said. “We received nothing but positive feedback from all of the participants and can’t wait to start planning for next year.”

Lord willing, Magnolia Marketplace will be there. The Depot has become one of our favorite handful of events of the calendar year, and we wouldn’t miss it.

Categories: News Tags:

Rumors swirling about biofuel location(s) (Updated)

August 25th, 2010 1 comment

We know for sure that the economic development project lawmakers will most likely approve $50 million in incentives for Friday will have multiple locations.

True to the form he has established in his six and a half years in the Governor’s Mansion, Gov. Haley Barbour is not telling anybody for sure where those locations will be until he’s absolutely ready to do so.

Some checking with folks this morning has yielded two possibilities: D’Iberville and Greenville. One person Magnolia Marketplace spoke to a few minutes ago seems to think D’Iberville is not one of the locations, even though that city is included in the special session call in a separate item from the biofuel project. City leaders in D’Iberville are asking the Legislator for permission to acquire property for commercial development, but no details are given about what manner of development that is.

The fact that it’s separate from the item dealing with the biofuel project, said our source, is significant. “If D’Iberville were one of the places that’s going to get this thing, it would have been included in the nebolous general call,” they said, referring to the location detail-free description of the incentive package lawmakers will consider.

Conversations with folks about Greenville as a possibility reinforce that notion, considering Greenville has more land to offer as one of the locations and sits adjacent to the Mississippi River. Whether the proximity to the River is enough to overcome D’Iberville’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico is anybody’s guess.

Or maybe Greenville and D’Iberville will both be shut out of the biofuel sweepstakes. We’ll just have to wait and see.

UPDATED: Apparently heeding our cry (but probably not), Barbour just announced via press release that he will discuss the project with the media Thursday at 2 p.m. We’ll know everything we need and want to know then.

Spectrum ends pursuit of SEC Baseball Tournament

August 25th, 2010 1 comment

We meant to get to this yesterday, but Gov. Haley Barbour releasing the special session call took up most of the afternoon.

Spectrum Events, a division of Spectrum Capital and the outfit that was pursuing the SEC Baseball Tournament for Trustmark Park in Pearl, announced on its Twitter page that it was dropping its bid for the Tournament.

The reason given was that Trustmark Park did not meet the minimum seating requirement of 10,000. Magnolia Marketplace had spent a lot of time researching the story we did on Spectrum’s pursuit of the Tournament a few weeks ago, and in our conversations with the SEC, a minimum seating requirement never came up.

So we called Craig Mattox, the SEC’s associate commissioner for championships, this morning and asked him if such a thing existed. It does not.

“That’s inaccurate for (Spectrum) to say that,” Mattox said.

Mattox did say that preference would be given to stadiums that could seat at least 10,000 people, but a capacity less than that would not automatically preclude it from consideration.

“We wouldn’t have gotten three or four bids (with a capacity minimum),” Mattox said. “We would have hurt ourselves if we did that.”

When we first spoke with Mattox for the original story, he said Mississippi’s flag — specifically, the Confederate emblem in the upper left corner — would be a factor when it came time to weigh Trustmark Park’s virtues. He even said that if came down to Pearl and another city, with all things being equal, the flag would make the SEC’s decision for it, in favor of Pearl’s competition.

Whether that had anything to do with Spectrum’s decision is anybody’s guess. We have a message in to Spectrum. When we hear back, we’ll post their response.

Categories: News Tags:

Barbour makes the call: It’s a biofuel company

August 24th, 2010 4 comments

Gov. Haley Barbour has issued the call for Friday’s special session, so let’s get right to it:

Among other things, Barbour will ask lawmakers to issue $45 million in general obligation bonds to a company that will produce renewable crude oil using biomass harvested here in Mississippi.

Biomass is a natural material used to produce energy. It can range from wood chips to grass to animal waste.

Barbour does not name the company or any of its locations — he said last week it would have multiple facilities — in the call, so we’ll just have to wait until Friday to learn those particulars.

To go with the $45 million that will defray some of the construction costs and equipment purchases, lawmakers will be asked to issue an additional $4 million in GOBs that will pay for workforce training related to the project, a program that will be administered by the Mississippi Development Authority. The actual training will be done by Mississippi’s colleges and universities and community colleges.

We’re still not done. Barbour also wants an additional $1 million in GOBs to fund research on biomass usage in the production of renewable crude oil at the Sustainable Energy Research Center at Mississippi State.

All told, that represents a $50 million investment by the state in the $500 million project that is expected to create 1,000 jobs.

Also included in the call is an authorization that will allow the City of D’Iberville to acquire property for development, and an authorization allowing DeSoto County to build a new jail.

It all gets started Friday at 10 a.m.

10-Day forecast: Football

August 24th, 2010 1 comment

Magnolia Marketplace is a weather fanatic.

High on the rotation of websites we visit daily is; lately, it’s been nothing but bad news. Heat. Humidity. Extreme amounts of both.

Today’s 10-day forecast offers precious relief, though. The temperatures will still surge into the 90s, but the humidity will supposedly loosen up. The really good news, though, comes at the end of the latest 10-day outlook.

Sept. 2’s conditions will be much like the nine days before it — 90-something for a high and 70-something for a low, with a lot of sunshine and little chance of rain.

But Sept. 2 has something no other date does — the right to call itself college football’s Opening Day. If calendar days could win the equivalent of a Heisman, Sept. 2 would be the odds-on favorite.

Southern Mississippi will play at South Carolina next Thursday night, Sept. 2. Since this is a business blog, we should probably include some numbers-based analysis of the game. So here you go: Las Vegas has installed the Gamecocks as a 14-point favorite. Not that anybody is paying attention to the point spread (of course not), but that seems too large. Just sayin’.

Congratulations, Sept. 2. You win — before you even arrive — the title of Best Day of the Year So Far.

Categories: Football, News Tags:

Toyota officially kicks off hiring process today

August 23rd, 2010 10 comments

Toyota and Gov. Haley Barbour announced just a few minutes ago that the company has started the process of hiring the 2,000 people who will eventually work at the Blue Springs facility.

The news is not a surprise, considering Toyota and Barbour said that last week they’d  have details about the hiring cycle today.

So here they are:

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi is coordinating the hiring of its workers through the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and the Workforce Investment Network (WIN) Job centers. That includes hourly skilled workers — the folks who will actually build the Toyota Corolla — and the hourly maintenance workers, who will keep the facility in operating shape.

Those interested can apply at Once there, click on the “Toyota” link underneath the Access Mississippi Online Services section. You can also peruse a list of the WIN Job Centers across the state at the same place.

Toyota expects to hire about 1,000 workers from the WIN Job Centers. The first Corollas are scheduled to come off the assembly line next fall.

Finally, special session confirmation (Updated)

August 20th, 2010 No comments

A few weeks ago, Magnolia Marketplace spent most of a Friday chasing a rumor that Gov. Haley Barbour was set to call a special session for Aug. 13, in which lawmakers would consider incentive packages for an economic development project.

The rumor turned out to be partially right.

In a press release that landed in our inbox minutes ago, Barbour confirmed that he will summon the Legislature to the Capitol next Friday, Aug. 27, to consider an inventive package for a $500 million project.

According to the release, whatever company is asking for the incentives will have locations across the state, and will provide $85 million in wages and direct purchases and supply 1,000 direct and indirect jobs through the company and its suppliers.

“Additional information about the company will be released at a later date,” the release read.

When we were first tracking the rumor, speculation ranged from a project in the Delta to one in Meridian. Theoretically, if the company will have multiple locations in the state, both of those regions could be involved. Or neither of them.

Here’s the press release from Barbour’s office:

JACKSON – Gov. Haley Barbour today announced a special session at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 27, to consider an incentive package for a $500 million economic development project with locations around the state.

The project will bring $85 million in wages and direct Mississippi purchases, as well as 1,000 direct and indirect jobs through the company and the local suppliers. Additional information about the company will be released at a later date.

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with Dan Turner, Barbour’s press secretary, to ask one or two follow-up questions.

The first and most obvious: What’s the name of the company? Turner didn’t blink. “No comment,” he said. No surprise there. Barbour is the master at keeping things close to the vest until he — and only he — is ready to make it official. “We’re sticking to that policy,” Turner said.

Turner did offer somewhat of a hint about what kind of jobs the project will bring. “I think this one is tailor-made as far as jobs that have a long-range future in Mississippi.”

Since he’s been in office, Barbour has said advanced manufacturing jobs are what suits Mississippi best, things like Toyota and aerospace and the steel plants that have cropped up in the Golden Triangle. Turner’s “long-range future” description of this latest deal sure sounds like that.

Water issues inflame old tensions

August 18th, 2010 No comments

Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. and Gov. Haley Barbour have engaged in a letter-writing war over the State Bond Commission’s refusal to issue $6 million in bonds to improve the city’s water system.

Twice this year, all or parts of Jackson have gone without water service due to problems with the pipes. In January, a hard freeze left most of the city without for several days. Portable restrooms were placed outside the Capitol for lawmakers in session. The MBJ offices set up temporary shop in a Madison hotel. Earlier this summer, a relatively new water main burst at the main treatment facility, cutting off service for several hours, mainly in the northern part of the city. Magnolia Marketplace’s house was one of the ones affected.

Johnson is miffed that the Bond Commission, of which Barbour is the chairman, voted against the $6 million bond project, even though the Legislature passed it and Barbour signed it as part of an omnibus bond program this past session. Barbour countered that the $6 million alone amounted to a drop in the bucket when it came to the overall cost of repairing and upgrading Jackson’s water infrastructure, and encouraged Johnson to seek a low-interest loan through the Department of Environmental Quality.

This latest conflict raises anew the decades-old tension between Jackson and state government. The majority of Downtown Jackson is made up of state buildings, which pay no property taxes but receive city services.

There have been a few attempts by Jackson officials over the years to institute a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program to help offset some of the costs the city incurs in providing services to those state buildings. They have gotten nowhere. It’s a hard sell for a North Mississippi lawmaker to spend money on something that won’t benefit his constituents.

Budgets at every level of government are shrinking, a symptom of the depression. Lawmakers, especially with an election year coming up, are averse to any kind of new spending that might lead to a tax increase. On the other hand, Jackson is running a budget deficit and could surely use the money.

This water flap will most likely get resolved. If it doesn’t, you can take this to the bank: If and when the water pipes burst this winter, Barbour and Johnson will blame each other. Meanwhile, the rest of us will suffer.

Intuit dropping the ball with switch to Mint

August 16th, 2010 No comments

Intuit, the personal finance software company that has done a lot of good things, is in the middle of doing a bad one.

On Aug. 29, Intuit will shut down Quicken, the software that basically serves as a checkbook on your computer. Taking its place is Mint, which is supposed to serve the same purpose but doesn’t.

There’s no comparison between the two. Quicken is easy. Mint is clumsy. Quicken allows you to post and keep track of recurring expenses. Mint does not. Quicken shows what your real balance is after those recurring expenses. Mint does not.

Quicken is superior. Mint is inferior.

So why is the better product on the way out? I’ve asked Mint’s online support that three times. Each time, I get the canned response full of corporate buzzwords like “efficiency, customer experience” blah blah blah.

My experience with Quicken, over the past few years, has made personal finance probably as pain-free as it can get. The few times I’ve forced myself to use Mint — to get ready for the switch — have been frustrating to the point I get angry and give up. There’s no way to rationalize this. Eliminating Quicken in favor of Mint is total nonsense.

It’s not too late, Intuit. Admit the mistake you’re making. Call off the switch. Better yet, eliminate Mint and keep Quicken.

Doing anything else is corporate stupidity.

Categories: News, Personal finance Tags:

David Hasselhoff — promoting Coast tourism?

August 13th, 2010 4 comments

Observations and opinions to close out the week …

Gov. Haley Barbour announced in a press release this afternoon that the CW Network will air a one-hour special Aug. 27 that will “highlight the resilience and spirit of Gulf Coast residents.”

The timing of the event, designed to promote tourism, is right, considering Aug. 27 is two days before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and what with the oil spill and everything. Mississippi residents can even appear as extras.

What is curious, though, is the man who will serve as the event’s host — David Hasselhoff.

Knight Rider David Hasselhoff? Yes.

Lifeguard David Hasselhoff? You bet.

Cheeseburger aficionado David Hasselhoff? Yep.

The special will air from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, which also happens to have a franchise of the hamburger joint Mugshots. Just sayin’.

Moving on, if you’ve read this week’s edition of the MBJ — and if you haven’t, what’s the hold-up? — you’ve read seen the efforts to lure the SEC Baseball Tournament to Trustmark Park in Pearl. Metro Jackson is fighting an uphill battle to land the tournament, for two reasons: The Confederate emblem on the state flag; and the size, or relative lack thereof, of Trustmark Park.

The Southeastern Conference has already said the flag will be a part of its evaulation, and Trustmark Park is the second smallest stadium of any involved in the bidding. Magnolia Marketplace would be surprised — really, really surprised — if the Tournament ended up anywhere other than Memphis. Memphis has made it known for years, basically ever since Autozone Park was built in the late 1990s, that it would like to host the event. With the biggest stadium of all the cities pushing to host, and with hundreds of hotels and restraurants in the area, many within walking distance of the park, it’s our guess that it’s Memphis’ to lose.

The SEC would take a lot of heat if it simply  handed the Tournament to Memphis. Opening it up for bids is probably a way of covering a few tracks.