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Archive for June, 2013

MSU grants oil extraction license to Jackson company

June 28th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi State has granted a commercialization license to a Jackson-based company for a technology developed and owned by the university.

The technology extracts oil from microorganisms.

Bio Energy Spectrum Solutions, LLC, received the exclusive right to commercialize MSU’s patented technology involving extracting biocrude from oleaginous microorganisms, which are found in wastewater treatment facilities. The microorganisms accumulate oil similar to vegetable oil or animal fat.

The company plans to build the world’s first commercially viable biocrude plant that uses industrial and municipal wastewaters.

Darryl Breland, president of Spectrum Solutions, said biocrude is the world’s latest and most promising alternative energy source because it is more cost effective than any other biofuel.

The company is co-owned by Rafael Hernandez and Todd French, who both were Mississippi State chemical engineering faculty members and co-inventors of the technology. French remains at MSU as an associate professor, while Hernandez now is head of the chemical engineering department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Andro Mondala, an MSU senior research associate who previously completed his doctoral degree at MSU and helped develop the technology as part of his dissertation, also is a co-owner.

The project orlginated under the Mississippi University Research Authority (MURA) Act. The 1992 legislation was designed to spur economic development by linking university researchers with private sector partners to commercialize inventions, innovations and other intellectual property.

The Mississippi State University Research and Technology Corporation will maintain a 5 percent equity interest in the company, per the licensing agreement.

“Unlike other manufacturers of biofuels, biocrude is not made from an expensive food-based feedstock such as soy oil, corn oil or yellow grease, but is made from secondary sewage sludge, which many cities and industries would be willing to pay our company to take from them,” Breland said in a school press release.

Spectrum Solutions is in the early stages of evaluating the feasibility of implementing the biocrude production technology with several U.S. municipalities and major industries, and has started discussions with potential sub-licensees in various countries around the world.

“The process is scalable and environmentally friendly, which is a great combination. MSU and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer are pleased to partner with Spectrum in commercializing this technology,” said Gerald Nelson, director of MSU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.

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Paula Deen casino restaurant in Tunica to be rebranded

June 26th, 2013 20 comments

Caesars Entertainment Corp. announced Wednesday morning that it will end its relationship with Paula Deen.

All Deen restaurants on Caesars property will be rebranded, including the Paula Deen Buffet at Harrah’s Casino in Tunica. A Caesars press release said the shift would happen in “the coming months.”

“While we appreciate Paula’s sincere apologies for statements she made in her past that she recently disclosed during a deposition given in response to a lawsuit, after thoughtful consideration of their impact, we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment.

Comments Deen made in a deposition connected to a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee have made the past couple weeks unpleasant for the culinary celebrity. In the deposition, Deen admitted to using racial slurs, and to planning a wedding for a family member in which African-American workers were to dress as slaves. She has since apologized. In an interview that aired Wednesday  morning on “The Today Show,” a tearful Deen said she wasn’t a racist.

Caesars joins a procession of companies to sever its relationship with Deen. That includes The Food Network, which provided Deen some of her first national exposure.

16th Section revenue tops $89 million

June 24th, 2013 No comments

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Monday that revenue from 16th Section land leases reached $89.2 million for fiscal year 2012, which ended last July.

The money goes to school districts.

“This $89-Million will help alleviate some of the financial headaches faced by our school districts today,” Hosemann said in a press release. “In times of serious cutbacks and strict budgets, we were able to increase revenue generated on these public lands to benefit education.”

Hosemann said annual revenue from the leases has increased $34 million since he took office in 2008.

Hosemann’s office executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mississippi Forestry Commission to develop forest management plans for 16th Section land with timber on it. Plans are designed to maximize revenue generated by selling timber. Oil royalty payments have also increased.

All 16th Section leases are posted on the secretary of state’s website at www.sos.ms.gov.

“I made a promise I would protect our public lands for schoolchildren.  Time and time again, we have seen attempts to raid 16th Section land funds for short term gains,” Hosemann said. “This increase in funding shows sound management practices are producing cash results.”

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NFIB unveils new insurance options for members

June 21st, 2013 No comments

The National Federation of Independent Businesses has started a new program designed to provide its 350,000 members easier access to personal health insurance plans.

The program is a partnership between NFIB, a small business advocacy group, and health insurance provider UnitedHealthCare. It will be administered by UnitedHealthOne Agency, an affiliate of United HealthCare.

Health insurance options include co-pay plans, which are similar to traditional employer-sponsored coverage, lower-cost high deductible plans and health savings account plans Dental, vision, critical illness and disability insurance will be offered to NFIB members. The plans are underwritten by UnitedHealthCare’s Golden Rule Insurance Company.

“The new program provides access to personal health insurance options for small business owners that fit individual budgets and offer a network of quality health providers,” said Mark Garzone, senior vice president of marketing for NFIB, in a press release.

“Working together with the UnitedHealthOne Agency, we can now give our members easier access to quality, affordable individual insurance plans that give small business owners and their families the choices they want and the coverage they need.”

NFIB members interested in more information on the new program can visit nfib.com/unitedhealthone or call 888-280-3511.

 

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Bentz: Sierra Club claim about Kemper overrun incorrect (Updated)

June 20th, 2013 1 comment

The Sierra Club has filed papers with the Mississippi Supreme Court asking justices to direct the Mississippi Public Service Commission to supply records pertaining to a $366 million cost overrun at Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County coal plant.

The overrun was revealed in May 2012, shortly after the PSC reissued the plant’s certificate of public convenience and necessity. Regulators reissued the certificate after the state high court invalidated the first one that was issued in 2010, saying in a ruling that it did not properly cite the record of proceedings.

Southern District Commissioner Leonard Bentz and his staff have been investigating when the utility knew about the overrun. Bentz said in May that gathering information the past year has been difficult because former Mississippi Power president Ed Day had ordered it withheld. Day resigned last month and was replaced by Ed Holland.

In a Wednesday press release, the Sierra Club said Bentz and Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey – who along with Bentz has voted in favor of the project – should have known about the $366 million overrun when they voted to reissue the plant’s certificate.

The environmental advocacy organization, which has long opposed the plant, says a timeline prepared by Mississippi Power shows that both the utility and commissioners knew about the overrun in March 2012.

Bentz disputed that in an interview Thursday morning. He said regulators had been alerted by their independent monitors that there were “cost constraints” related to the plant.

“But we never knew a number” until Mississippi Power revealed the $366 million overrun, he said. “Our issue is about the power company not giving us the information we requested.”

Bentz said the investigation into when the utility knew about the overrun should be finished by early August.

“And if need be, we’ll have hearings,” Bentz said. “That’s a fact. We’re even looking at some options on the prudency hearings to make sure that (MPC) will not be given the green light before we get to the bottom of this. That’s in the best interest of the ratepayer.”

The coal plant is scheduled to start commercial operation in May 2014. Bentz reiterated that the utility, per the terms of a settlement with the PSC, will be allowed to charge ratepayers no more than $2.4 billion in construction costs. “That’s always been the number,” he said.

UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, the Mississippi Supreme Court consolidated two different sets of litigation surrounding the project. Justices also ordered that attorneys for a Hattiesburg resident who is challenging the Baseload Act — the 2008 law that allows utilities to charge ratepayers for facilities as they are being built — and Mississippi Power submit briefs related to the issue within 30 days. That would set July 21 as the briefing deadline. The court heard oral arguments on the Baseload issue earlier this year.

Corps of Engineers clarifies firearms rules in light of new carry law

June 19th, 2013 No comments

The Vicksburg District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says federal regulations still prohibit the possession of firearms on Corps property, in light of Mississippi’s new open carry law.

Lawmakers passed last session House Bill 2, which allows firearms to be openly carried without a permit. Firearms cannot be concealed without a concealed carry permit.

In a press release, Corps officials said a 2009 federal law that allows guns in national parks could lead to some confusion. That statute did not include parks governed by the Corps. Violating the Corps’ no-firearms policy is punishable by a fine not to exceed $5,000, six months’ imprisonment, or both.

Exceptions include firearms carried by law enforcement, those being transported between hunting and fishing sites (as long as they’re unloaded), those being used at authorized firing ranges, or carriers who have received written permission from the district commander.

Corps figures say that more than 3 million people visit annually the 262,000-acre recreational areas under the Vicksburg District’s purview. That includes, campgrounds, playgrounds, swimming areas, trails, fishing areas, boat ramps, marinas and marinas. The economic impact of those visitors, the Corps estimates, is $125 million a year, and supported 1,700 jobs.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood last week issued an opinion on House Bill 2. It said that people who are not a convicted felon can openly carry firearms, except where prohibited. Examples include private businesses that choose not to allow customers to carry, and on certain state and federal property, like Corps installations and courthouses.

Whole Foods opening date shifts slightly

June 13th, 2013 1 comment

The Whole Foods Market under construction in Jackson’s Highland Village will open late this year.

It’s not a big one, but it is a departure from the date given at the groundbreaking last November, when officials said the opening date would be fall 2013.

A Whole Foods spokesperson could not give a more specific date.

“We don’t typically announce an opening date until about three weeks out,” Darrah Horgan Wednesday afternoon in an email to the Mississippi Business Journal.

Horgan said the natural foods grocer has already implemented some of its outreach programs designed to connect local producers with the store. Whole Foods held an open house for local vendors a few months ago, and will have similar events leading up to the opening.

Whole Foods also has a local producer loan program, in which the company makes low-interest loans to potential producers to spruce up their operation enough to meet the company’s standards. Mississippi’s version of that program will also wait until closer to the opening date before starting. Loans range from $1,000 to $100,000.

The Jackson store will be the first Whole Foods in Mississippi. It will sit on the east side of Highland Village adjacent to Old Canton Road. White Construction Co. of Jackson is building the 30,000 square-foot store.

Ole Miss, MSU to hold minority vendor job fair as part of IHL outreach program

June 11th, 2013 2 comments

Ole Miss and Mississippi State will hold a minority vendor fair June 18 in Oxford.

Minority Business Expo: Making The University Connection begins at 1 p.m. in the Jackson Avenue Center Multipurpose Room near the Ole Miss campus. Online registration is available through www.Where2Go411.com  and early registration is encouraged.

The event is the part of the IHL’s push to increase the number of minority-owned businesses that land the agency’s contracts.

Other institutions expects participating in the initiative include Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

IHL has contracted with Where2Go411.com, a Web-based platform that connects vendors to buyers through its quote feature. Minority companies post information about their business and the goods and services they provide. Universities send and receive quotes, proposals and subcontracting opportunities through the online system. This benefits minority businesses with awareness of opportunities and enables them to respond using the website’s easy-to-use method.

While any business can be listed on the site, minority businesses are recruited for inclusion in the featured listing section, which provides access to the quote, RFP, subcontracting opportunity solicitations.

Procurement officers at each of Mississippi’s public universities have been trained how to post opportunities to the site and retrieve quotes and information from the vendors.

“MSU is constantly seeking out new suppliers so we can expand the number of companies participating in the public procurement process,” said Don Buffum, MSU director of procurement and contracts. “We do this by urging departments to seek additional quotes or to try new vendors, actively seeking out new vendors at trade shows, conducting ‘Doing Business With MSU’ seminars, and by maintaining an open-door policy to meet with new vendors.

“Co-hosting the minority vendor fair with Ole Miss on June 18 provides us a great opportunity to implement all those strategies in a single venue,” Buffum continued. “By locating small and minority vendors, we are able to provide our departments with more potential sources while also making a valuable contribution to the economy.”

Toyota unveils redesigned Corolla

June 7th, 2013 No comments

Toyota unveiled the redesigned 2014 Corolla at an event in Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday night.

It will include elements of the Corolla Furia concept car that debuted earlier this year at the North American Auto International Auto Show. The wheelbase will be extended by nearly four inches, with the wheels pushed farther out to the corners.

2014_CorollaLE_Eco_002The front of the compact sedan will look more like its counterparts, the midsize Camry and the full-size Avalon. During last night’s reveal, company executives said the new Corolla was heavy on rounded corners and more precisely sculpted surfaces. LED headlamps are also new, making the Corolla the first compact sedan to offer them as a standard feature.

This will be the Corolla’s 47th year on the market. Its popularity has played a large part in making Toyota the world’s top automotive retail manufacturer. More than 40 million of them have been sold since 1966.

In the U.S, the Corolla is built in Blue Springs, whose facility started production in late 2011. Toyota also has a Corolla plant in Ontario, Canada. Only about five percent are imported from the company’s production facilities in Japan.

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Miss. Power names new VP of generation and development

June 6th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi Power Co. announced Wednesday afternoon that John Huggins has been elected vice president of generation development.

Huggins replaces Tommy Anderson, who abruptly left in April.

Like Anderson, Huggins will oversee the development and construction of the utility’s Kemper County coal plant. Huggins has served since 2010 as general manager of the Kemper County facility’s start-up, engineering and construction services.

“John is not only a proven leader in engineering and construction, but also in implementing and sustaining successful energy facility operations,” Mississippi Power president Ed Holland said in a company press release. “He has the knowledge and experience needed for this role, but most importantly he knows this facility. I have every confidence in his ability to ensure the successful completion of the Kemper project.”

Huggins joined Southern Company in 1972 as an engineer. During his career he has held a number of leadership roles at Mississippi Power, Alabama Power and Southern Company. He served as general manager of clean air compliance, construction services and environmental program strategic planning. Huggins earned a bachelor of mechanical engineering degree from the University of Alabama, and is a registered, licensed professional engineer.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission is still trying to determine if the utility knew about a $366 million cost overrun that was revealed a couple weeks after regulators re-affirmed the project’s certificate of public convenience and necessity. Southern District commissioner Leonard Bentz told the Mississippi Business Journal in late May that the PSC had pursued information related to the overrun for the better part of a year, before learning that it had been withheld under former president Ed Day’s direction. Day resigned last month. Bentz said his office would continue to investigate the matter.

The plant, whose total cost has risen above $4 billion, is scheduled to start commercial operation in May 2014.