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Turkeys and a Golden Egg

November 23rd, 2010 1 comment

Apologies for the neglect over the past 10 days. Jury duty that took longer than we had planned to get excused from and a trip to Laurel to check on the progress of the latest Choctaw casino put quite a kink in our regular blogging schedule.

The Mississippi Business Journal goes to press today, and we’ll take the rest of the week off for Thanksgiving. We have some pretty good stuff planned for the next couple of weeks. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoy putting it together.

Until then, may your table be covered with only the finest holiday fare and may the Rebels lay a whoopin’ on the Bulldogs.

Be safe, be cool and be stuffed. Happy Thanksgiving from Magnolia Marketplace.

Mississippi GOP endorses Barnes

September 7th, 2010 No comments

The Mississippi Republican Party announced this morning that it will endorse state Court of Appeals Judge Donna Barnes in this fall’s election for the right to represent North Mississippi on the appellate court.

There’s nothing unexpected about the endorsement. Barnes, of Tupelo, was appointed to the Court six years ago by Gov. Haley Barbour. She ran unopposed in 2006.

Barnes has an opponent this time around. Kelly Mims, also of Tupelo, is a veteran of Opertion Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to his campaign website. (View Barnes’ campaign website here.)

Magnolia Marketplace made it a point Saturday in the Grove to gauge the presence of both candidates. Barnes had a large banner hanging from one tent. We didn’t see anything with Mims’ name on it. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything. We just didn’t see it. And what we saw on the turf at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, we’d just as soon forget.

The Viking has had a good couple weeks (updated)

September 3rd, 2010 No comments

Opinions and observations to kick off the long weekend …

Randy Watkins, Viking Classic boss, fine Ole Miss man and one of Magnolia Marketplace’s favorite people, had a double-shot of good news recently.

First, the PGA Tour announced in late August that it was renewing The Viking Classic for an additional year, guaranteeing the tournament would be played at Annandale in Madison at least through 2011. We did a story earlier in the summer about the contract between the Tour and the Viking expiring after this year, and most everybody we talked to was optimistic that the relationship between the two would continue. So while it’s  not much of a surprise, it still has to be a relief for Watkins and other Viking organizers.

Then, earlier this week, Viking Range announced that Emeril Lagasse would do two cooking demonstrations at the tournament. The Viking has had some fairly famous celebrity chefs at past tournaments, but none with the name recognition and drawing power of Emeril. You can purchase tickets for the tournament and/or Emeril’s cooking demos at vikingclassic.com. If you plan to be in town the last weekend of September, you should do just that.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security announced late yesterday afternoon that it had received its 10,000th application related to the Toyota plant in Blue Springs. The agency says 8,700 of those 10,000 are from Mississippians. The rest come from 36 states across the U.S. MDES is helping Toyota fill 1,350 of the 2,000 jobs at the facility, so some HR person has a pile of paper work on their desk, and it’s only getting bigger. Let’s hope they move faster — and exercise a little more common sense — than the NCAA did and does.

Enjoy your Labor Day, and be safe.

URGENT UPDATE: Remember what we said about the NCAA in the above paragraph? Disregard. Jeremiah Masoli can play football for Ole Miss this year. The NCAA is a fair-minded, sense-driven organization.

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 weather.com; 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:

Since when do college athletes need PR firms?

July 29th, 2010 1 comment

We’re not going to rehash the ins and outs of the will-he-or-won’t-he nonsense that has become Ole Miss’ pursuit/non-pursuit/whatever it is of former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. There are plenty of other places you can find that out if you aren’t already informed.

What did catch Magnolia Marketplace’s eye, though, is the news that Masoli has hired this PR firm to represent him in his effort to present himself in a more favorable light.

What?

Even though he currently has no team, Masoli is still (technically) an amateur athlete. When did athletes who are (technically) still amateurs start hiring PR firms to represent them while they look for a (technically) amateur athletic program to play for?

Professional athletes have armies of PR people in their employ. So do corporations big and small. There’s certainly nothing wrong with pro athletes and businesses hiring folks to help shape their public image. It’s smart, actually, to do so.

But bringing one on board in the middle of a crisis sounds all sorts of alarm bells. Toyota did it in the middle of the recall mess, after the company’s response to it had drawn criticism for being too slow or too steeped in denial. BP, after their now-former CEO committed some of the worst PR blunders of the past decade, did the same for a lot of the same reasons.

There aren’t many things Magnolia Marketplace loves more than Ole Miss football. And we have absolutely no control over whether Masoli ends up playing for the Rebels. As of late Thursday afternoon, it seemed for all the world that he would. If/when he takes the field, we hope he’s every bit as good as he’s been the past two years at Oregon. And if he helps the Rebels beat Alabama or LSU or Auburn or Arkansas, we’ll celebrate along with everybody else.

But there’s a reason Masoli and his family deemed it necessary to spend what’s probably a sizable amount of money on a PR firm to basically make people think he’s not as much of a creep as he seemed when he got into all that trouble at Oregon.

It just smells bad.

GOP Chairman: Voter ID close to reaching minimum signature requirement

February 9th, 2010 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace just wrapped up a 10-minute conversation with Brad White, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party.

Nothing is official yet, as the process of certifying signatures is ongoing, but White feels pretty confident enough registered voters have signed petitions in favor of a voter identification law that the issue will appear on the statewide ballot in 2011, giving Mississippians a chance to vote for or against it.

“I’m not ready to jump out and say we’ve got enough, but it looks like we’ve brought in a big enough cushion that we can get there even if the verification process drops some of the signatures,” White said.

Per state law, at least 18,355 signatures from each of the old five congressional districts have to be certified by the circuit clerks of each county in the districts. That would put the minimum number of signatures required for an initiative to make it onto the ballot at 91,673, or 12 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. White said it’s possible the final tally from each of the congressional districts would exceed 20,000, pushing the total from all five above 100,000.

If the initiative does indeed have the requisite number of signatures, it would then head to the Legislature in the 2011 session, where upon its arrival two things could happen: Lawmakers could go ahead and adopt the initiative into law, or they could send it to the ballot for fall 2011.

The county committees of the State GOP, Tea-Party groups and other organizations have spent the past year rounding up signatures for the initiative. Magnolia Marketplace heard reports last fall of people circulating petitions at high school football games, and even witnessed some of the effort firsthand in the Grove.

“This will bring clean voter ID,” White said. “There will be no hangups like people being able to use their electricity bill as identification or anything like that. This initiative mandates that only government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license) is acceptable at the polling places. This is better than any legislative proposal that’s been brought up.”

The Mississippi GOP will hold a press conference Thursday, White said, to update the latest with the certification process.

Categories: Elections, Football, News, Politics Tags:

Merry Christmas from Magnolia Marketplace

December 22nd, 2009 No comments

Apologies for the extended neglect of the blog. With the Holidays switching up the schedule here at the MBJ, we’ve had to cram two work weeks into one. That’s not a complaint, because it means we’re getting a few days off to do the Christmas routines, watch bowl games, drink eggnog and watch more bowl games.

Big things happened in 2009. Some good, some not good, some pretty bad. We took a look back in this week’s edition. Next week, we’ll look forward with some predictions for 2010 from some of the state’s business and political experts. There’s a surprise or two in there. Look for it.

In that vein, some personal predictions from Magnolia Marketplace:

• The legislative session that starts in a couple weeks will be wild and woolly.

• And despite what each party’s leadership says now, the state’s budget for fiscal year 2011 will not be done by the end of March, though we’d love to be proven wrong.

• No state agency will be happy with its appropriation for FY2011.

• In fact, many agency heads will cry bloody murder.

• Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposal to merge the three HBCUs into one will get absolutely nowhere in the Legislature, but that’s not going out on much of a limb.

• The Congressional campaign between Republican State Sen. Alan Nunnelee and Travis Childers, the Democrat from Booneville who represents the First District, will be a humdinger, with the national committees from each party pouring lots of money into it.

• The tone of the campaign will be exceedingly nasty.

• Toyota will announce it is ready to move forward with the Blue Springs plant.

• By this time next year, we’ll have a much clearer picture of the gubernatorial candidates for 2011, particularly on the Democratic side.

• On Jan. 2, Jevan Snead will throw at least one interception in the Cotton Bowl.

• Magnolia Marketplace will hit the ceiling when he does.

To you and yours, Merry Christmas. We’ll see you Dec. 28.

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.