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Tanglefoot Trail opening postponed

August 7th, 2013 No comments

North Mississippi’s Tanglefoot Trail has had its opening delayed.

The multi-use recreational trail was scheduled to be open to runners, walkers, bicyclists and those on horseback Aug. 17, but that has been delayed as contractors wrap up their work.

A newsletter the Pontotoc County Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Association issued Monday said the opening date has been pushed back “at least a few more weeks.”

A grand opening ceremony was set for Aug. 17 in Houston and New Albany, which represent the northern and southern ends of the 44-mile trail.

The trail is an old Gulf Mobile & Ohio railroad bed that has been paved. Whistle stops have been added in Houlka, Ecru, Algoma and Ingomar. A study conducted last year said the trail could draw 100,000 visitors annually, and have an economic impact of about $5 million in the seven towns it passes through.

Betsey Hamilton, chairperson of the GM&O Rails to Trails Recreational District, said in June that those numbers are preliminary, and are based on data from South Mississippi’s Longleaf Trace Recreational Trail. “I don’t know we’ll be that big” immediately, Hamilton said.

Tanglefoot was paid for with a $9.6 million federal transportation grant, to go with $450,000 in state and local money.

Construction started last year.

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How much weight would Thompson’s endorsement carry in an election to replace him?

July 15th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi 2nd District congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, was one of the names floated Monday as a possibility to replace outgoing Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano. (The Politico story in which Thompson is mentioned can be read here.)

Thompson has represented the 2nd District – which encompasses the Mississippi Delta and parts of Hinds County – since the early 1990s. His seat is considered the safest in the state; his re-election every two years is all but guaranteed.

Because of that, Thompson often holds considerable sway over municipal and county races within his district. And because of that, Thompson’s preferred candidate to replace him, should he get the DHS post, would have a built-in advantage.

Maybe.

Two Mississippi Democratic party sources were split Monday on how much influence Thompson’s endorsement would mean in an election for his old seat. If Thompson were to vacate the office he’s held for two decades, his political clout in the 2nd District would diminish, stripping his endorsement of the punch it normally carries, one source said.

The other believes there’s no chance of anybody winning the seat without Thompson making it known that’s who he wants to succeed him.

Assuming the latter notion is correct, one name to watch could be Jackson city councilman Melvin Priester Jr., who won Jackson mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s old Ward 2 seat last month. Ward 2 covers northwest Jackson and is within Thompson’s 2nd District.

Priester earned Thompson’s endorsement in the race to replace Lumumba; the congressmen even participated in a fundraiser for the new councilman. Priester is in his early 30s, has a law degree and is viewed as having solid potential. (For that matter, Lumumba earned Thompson’s endorsement in his mayoral race, but age could be an issue. Lumumba is in his 60s.)

If Thompson’s endorsement turns out not to carry its usual weight, former state Rep. Chuck Espy, D-Clarksdale, is a possibility. Espy lost to Thompson in the 2010 Democratic primary, but not as badly as some of Thompson’s other opponents, getting 47 percent of the vote.

In May, Espy lost the Democratic primary in Clarksdale’s mayoral race to former gubernatorial candidate Bill Luckett. Luckett, an attorney, won the general election and was sworn in as Clarksdale’s mayor earlier this month.

Former Greenville mayor Heather McTeer-Toney is another who would go without Thompson’s blessing. McTeer-Toney opposed Thompson last year, and got walloped. Thompson got 83 percent of the vote.

And as noted Monday afternoon by Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reporter Bobby Harrison, new Vicksburg mayor George Flaggs – who just resigned his state House seat to take the position – would have an interesting decision to make should Thompson’s seat become available.

The only certainties surrounding a possible election to replace Thompson is that the field would be crowded, there would be a Democratic primary runoff, and the question of how much weight Thompson’s endorsement would carry in his old district would be answered one way or another.

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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Toyota’s 2012 sales up 26 percent over 2011

January 3rd, 2013 No comments

Toyota sold about 418,000 more vehicles in 2012 than it did in 2011.

The numbers came from Toyota’s year-end sales figures, which the company released Thursday afternoon. Total units sold for 2012 were 2,082,504, up from 1,644,661 in 2011. That represented an increase of 26.6 percent.

Sales across all auto companies were 14.5 million, the highest since 2007.

Sales of the Corolla, which is built in Blue Springs, were also up 21.1 percent this year over last. The Corolla was the compamy’s second most popular model as far as total units sold, behind the Camry. Sales of vehicles made in North America were up 28.4 percent. Selling days for each year were the same, at 307.

Click the link below for the entire chart.

Toyota 2012 sales

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Jackson State to unveil new logo, website Saturday

November 9th, 2012 No comments

Jackson State University will start the process of rebranding itself tomorrow during halftime of the Tigers’ game against Alabama A&M at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The school will unveil its new logo, and launch its new website. Each is the result of a research campaign the school used a marketing firm to conduct the past several months. The firm surveyed JSU faculty, staff, alumni, current and prospective students in and outside of Mississippi to gauge their perception of the school.

“We want to ensure that the logo reflects the quality of the institution and that we are communicating with a unified voice through our branding,” JSU president Dr. Carolyn W. Meyers said in a press release. ”We believe the new brand reflects the university’s long history and tradition, as well as our commitment to learning, technology and innovation.”

Designed by AndiSites Inc., the new website will go live right after the game. It will be launched in phases. Over the next several months, the logo will appear on television, billboards, university buses and vehicles and signs in the Jackson area. Merchandise featuring the new logo will be available in JSU’s campus bookstore next semester.

The practice of rebranding at colleges and universities has been around almost as long as the institutions. For example, Mississippi State University was called Mississippi A&M, then Mississippi State College until 1932, when it became Mississippi State. A more modern example is Belhaven University in Jackson, which was named Belhaven College until just a few years ago.

“In an increasingly competitive environment, we want to position the university for the future,” Meyers said.

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Nissan announces openings in wake of poor national jobs report

September 7th, 2012 No comments

The August jobs report issued Friday morning was mostly met with disappointment, but there was some good news at Canton’s Nissan plant.

The company is looking for maintenance technicians. Candidates with a minimum of five years industrial tech experience are invited to go online to create a profile and submit a resume. Nissan will then select applicants for a round of in-person interviews.

Nissan recently announced that its Canton facility would add the Sentra compact sedan, the Xterra SUV and the Frontier compact truck to its production line. The company will still make the full-size Titan truck, Armada SUV and the mid-size Altima sedan in Canton. New hires to produce the expanded lineup will create a total of 1,000 new jobs, officials announced in June. Total employment at the facility is expected to reach 4,500.

With those additions, total employment at the facility, which opened in 2003, is expected to reach 4,500. To compare, the Toyota plant in Blue Springs employs a little more than 2,000 people directly, but it only produces one vehicle – the Corolla compact sedan.

To apply for a maintenance tech position at Nissan, go here.

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Bulldogs continue winning streak over Rebels with Pontotoc’s Tailgate Challenge

August 20th, 2012 No comments

It’s football season, which means it’s tailgating season.

Things are already getting serious in Pontotoc. The Pontotoc County Chamber of Commerce and the Pontotoc Main Street Association held the first Rebel/Bulldog Tailgate Challenge Saturday on the town’s courthouse square.

The Challenge was essentially a barbecue cooking contest, with teams split into supporters of either Mississippi State or Ole Miss. Teams competed in four categories — ribs, chicken, pork and vegetables. Scores from each team were accumulated and applied to either Ole Miss or State. State won, and received a trophy for doing so. No word yet if there’s a billboard planned to mark the victory.

Moving on, there is a new industry organization that caters to businesses that cater to tailgaters. That could potentially be a wide range of places — grocery stores, gas stations, home improvement places, even furniture stores. The Tailgating Industry Association works like other trade organizations: Members pay a fee and the association markets, promotes and otherwise tries to make its members money.

The Association’s website doesn’t have a list of members, but it does list a fee schedule: Manufacturers and suppliers with less than $2 million in annual revenue pay $500 annually. That number increases based on annual sales, and is capped at $2,500. Media outlets can join for $250. (The Mississippi Business Journal will not be joining.)

Check out the TIA’s website here.

 

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Texas-based KBR still involved with Kemper plant, spokesperson says

August 7th, 2012 No comments

Word started circulating Monday that Mississippi Power Co. had ended its relationship with KBR, a Texas-based engineering and construction design/build firm involved in the Kemper County coal plant.

That’s not the case, a KBR spokesperson told the Mississippi Business Journal Tuesday morning.

Marianne Gooch said KBR is winding down its involvement in the construction phase of the plant, but will still provide engineering and start-up services. The plant is scheduled to begin commercial operation in May 2014. Employees in KBR’s construction division will leave the job site by this Thursday, Aug. 9, Gooch said, but will have the opportunity to catch on with other construction companies MPC and its parent Southern Co. are using to build the $2.88 billion plant.

KBR owns a portion of the Transport Integrated Gasification technology that will be used at the Kemper facility.

The coal plant has been the subject of a legal challenge from the Sierra Club, which currently has the issue in Harrison County Chancery Court for a second time. The Mississippi Public Service Commission voted in late June not to take any action on rate increase requests associated with the plant until the litigation concludes. The Mississippi Supreme Court last week denied MPC’s request to institute interim rate increases while the appeals process moved forward.

A MPC spokesperson did not immediately return cell phone and email messages Tuesday morning.

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Beef Plant lawsuit enters last pre-trial stages

February 28th, 2012 No comments

The pre-trial phase of the Beef Plant litigation is about to end.

The state and the private counsel it hired is suing Georgia-based Facilities Group, in an attempt to recoup the roughly $55 million the state lost when the cull cattle facility in Oakland failed. Facilities Group was brought on board to manage the construction of the plant. Three of its executives were eventually convicted of making an illegal gratuity to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s campaign.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd took two motions under advisement at a hearing Monday. Lawyers for the Facilities Group argued a motion for summary judgment, which would effectively throw out the case.  Plaintiffs argued a motion to give them possession of the records from the grand jury proceedings that led to the indictment of the Facilities Group executives and Richard Hall, who the state hired to run the facility.

Kidd didn’t rule on either motion Monday, but said he would by late this week or early next week. The trial is scheduled to start March 19.

Dorsey Carson, who represents the plaintiffs, said in a phone interview Tuesday morning that two mediation sessions have failed to render a settlement. Carson didn’t sound optimistic one would be reached before it’s time to pick the jury.

“Both sides have exchanged offers but frankly I don’t think they are going to come up with enough money (to settle it),” Carson said.

It’s likely settlement talks will take on a keen sense of urgency if Kidd denies the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, which represents their last chance to terminate the litigation short of settling. If March 19 arrives and there’s still no agreement, negotiations will probably get super serious.

Moak drops initiative hint

February 20th, 2012 No comments

House Minority Leader Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, dropped a strong hint at today’s meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps that Democrats could turn to the voter initiative process to advance some of their policies.

“The initiative and referendum process is a great tool for the minority,” Moak told the 40 or so people at the Capitol Club.

Moak, like everybody else, noticed during last fall’s elections that the three initiatives on the ballot generated more conversation than any of the candidates, including those running for statewide office. “They drove up turnout in a lot of places,” Moak said.

I asked Moak what issues Democratic officials were considering for the initiative process. He wouldn’t say. He wouldn’t give the slightest hint. Just a guess, but there has been some casual talk in the past about an effort to insert into Mississippi’s Constitution an amendment that would mandate the full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program every year. MAEP is the formula that determines how much state funding each school district gets every fiscal year.

Full funding of education, mental health services and Medicaid will be top priorities for Democrats come budget time. Moak said as much Monday. “We should take care of the basic needs and we can fight over everything else.”

It’s a possibility if Democrats lose that fight at the Capitol, they’ll at least try to win it with an initiative or two.