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Initiative seeks to aid veterans in finding jobs

January 16th, 2013 No comments

Gov. Phil Bryant proclaimed on Wednesday that 2013 was the year Mississippi employers should do everything they can to hire veterans.

As part of the announcement at the Capitol, Bryant and officials from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security said they would back legislation that seeks to make it easier for veterans and their spouses to get jobs.

The bill, which will be filed by Rep. Wanda Jennings, R-Southaven, would require state agencies to grant temporary occupational licenses to qualified veterans and their spouses. For example, if someone is transferred to Naval Air Station Meridian, and their spouse is a nurse licensed in another state, the bill would expedite the process of getting a license to practice nursing in Mississippi.

It would also expedite the licensing process for veterans whose civilian career will mirror their jobs in the military.

The initiative will include three job fairs, the first of which is in March at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson.

MDES executive director Mark Henry said Mississippi will have in the next five years 28,000 veterans who have served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. The unemployment rate for veterans in the state, Henry said, is 10.8 percent, higher than the 7.8 percent overall rate.

On Wednesday, representatives from Ingalls Shipbuilding, Entergy Mississippi and Brown Bottling signed a pledge to hire Mississippi veterans. A similar movement is going on nationally, led by Walmart’s promise this week to hire 100,000 veterans in the next five years.

The job fairs associated with the Mississippi initiative are March 8 at the Ag Museum, April 9 at the Biloxi Civic Center and June 27 at Itawamba Community College’s Belden Center in Belden.

Video of Wednesday’s press conference, courtesy of the MBJ‘s Stephen McDill, is here.

The broken budget record is still spinning

March 17th, 2010 No comments

Gov. Haley Barbour announced today that an additional $41 million was disappearing from the state’s budget for fiscal year 2010 because of spiraling state revenue collections.

Since the budget year started last July, $499.1 million has been cut.

“Hopefully we’re making the last cuts of the year,” Barbour said.

The latest round of cuts comes just a few hours after the Joint Legislative Budget Committee lowered  the revenue estimate for FY2010 and FY2011. FY10’s figure was reduced to $4.43 billion, and FY2011 was set at $4.45 billion.

Barbour said he was “skeptical” revenue in FY2011 would reach $4.45 billion. Legislators are crafting that plan now.

Barbour signaled his opposition to any budget that comes to him from the Legislature that would waive the stipulation, commonly called the “2 percent rule,” that sets aside 2 percent of appropriations for the rainy day fund. Legislation that violates the 2 percent rule, Barbour said, can expect his veto.

Aside from the state’s dismal fiscal situation, Barbour touched on a few other topics. Among them:

• The healthcare bill President Obama hopes to pass this week would be “very bad for Mississippi,” he said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to pass the bill without a vote wasn’t very popular with Barbour, either. “That’s mind-boggling to me,” he said.

• He urged the House to pass the reauthorization for the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. If the agency is reauthorized by June 30, those currently drawing unemployment will no longer do so. Barbour dropped strong hints that he would call a special session if lawmakers end the regular session without reauthorizing the agency.

• We asked Barbour what was next for The Aerospace Alliance, a four-state consortium that seeks to expand the Gulf South’s aerospace industry, which suffered its first big loss last week when Northrop Grumman/EADS pulled out of the KC-X Tanker program. He said some pretty interesting things, which we’ll chronicle in a story in next week’s MBJ.

Report: Northrop Grumman/EADS will exit tanker bid

March 8th, 2010 2 comments

The Seattle Times is reporting that Northrop Grumman and its partner European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. will pull out of the race for the $35 billion contract to supply the Air Force with a new fleet of refueling tankers.

The paper cites an anonymous source who says the official announcement will come after the stock market closes this afternoon.

There had been rumors that Boeing would eventually have the competition to itself after the Pentagon released the final request for proposals Feb. 24.

For the ST’s full report, click here.

Northrop Grumman/EADS drops a bombshell in tanker bid

December 1st, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace was about to call it a day when a Google alert caught our attention.

Several national media outlets are reporting that Northrop Grumman/EADS is threatening to pull out of the competition with Boeing for a $35 billion contract to supply the U.S. Air Force with a new fleet of refueling tanker planes.

In a letter with today’s date on it, Northrop Grumman President and COO Wes Bush told the Pentagon that the company believes the request for proposals basically rigs the competition to the point that it would be almost impossible for Boeing not to win it.

Obviously, if today’s threat became reality, it would be met with a healthy amount of disappointment in the Gulf Coast’s aerospace corridor, and more specifically, Jackson County in Mississippi, where Northrop Grumman’s shipbuilding division is located.

The leaders of the multi-state aerospace alliance that was launched recently, Gov. Haley Barbour among them, made it plain that their first priority was helping Northrop Grumman/EADS win the tanker contract.

Details of Bush’s letter can be read here.

Feathers already flying in third round of tanker bidding

September 30th, 2009 No comments

The third competition between Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing to land a $35 billion contract to replace the Air Force’s ancient fleet of refueling tankers officially began last Friday. Tuesday, the first serious allegation surfaced.

A Northrop Grumman executive accused the Pentagon of sharing his company’s pricing information from the second bid — which Northrop Grumman won but was overturned after a Boeing protest — with Boeing, without returning the favor in the other direction. The first bid, won by Boeing, was thrown out after a corruption scandal blew up and sent a Boeing executive and an Air Force official to prison.

Clearly, with this much money on the line — the overall impact of the contract to the area that lands it could exceed $100 billion — both companies have their chin straps buckled extra tight.

It goes without saying (actually, Magnolia Marketplace said it recently) that the Mississippi Gulf Coast would reap untold impact cash and supplier jobs if Northrop Grumman wins the bid and ends up building the planes in Mobile.

Tuesday’s development probably is the first of many accusations and allegations Boeing and Northrop Grumman will hurl at each other before this thing is over. Stay tuned.

Defense Secretary Gates makes major move on tanker contract

September 16th, 2009 No comments

The years-old fight between Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing to supply the Air Force with a new fleet of refueling tankers had a pretty significant development this morning.
Since Defense Secretary Robert Gates reopened the bidding due to a Boeing protest after Northrup Grumman had originally won it, his office had total oversight over the rebidding process. That is no longer the case, or as much of the case as it used to be (if that makes sense).
Gates has restored to the Air Force the control over the process it enjoyed before the Boeing flare-up. Gates did say in a speech at the Air Force Association trade show that his office will continue to closely monitor things.
This probably doesn’t provide any sort of advantage to either company as the rebidding moves forward. Northrop Grumman’s victory was greeted with a lot of high-fives in Mississippi, specifically on the Gulf Coast. Northrop Grumman plans to build the KC-45 Tanker in Mobile, which could spin off suppliers and supplier jobs — not to mention direct jobs — to the area. Over the life of the contract, the deal could exceed $100 billion.
George Freeland, the executive director of the Jackson County Development Foundation, couldn’t overstate its potential during a conversation with Magnolia Marketplace a couple months ago.
The details of Gates’ speech can be found here.