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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.

Yoknapatawpha Arts Council in running for $20,000 grant

August 9th, 2010 No comments

About four years ago, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council moved into the Powerhouse, a stone and brick building on South 14th street in Oxford. It was built in 1928 and once housed the Oxford Electric Co.

Renovated with money from the Mississippi Arts Commission, the City of Oxford and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Powerhouse has become a popular venue for corporate events, wedding receptions, and also hosts arts workshops and seminars. The Powerhouse is currently seeking funding for the completion of its second phase, which will include theater space with new lighting, flooring seating and a stage.

For its efforts to revive the Powerhouse, the YAC has emerged from thousands of applicants and is now one of 41 programs that Tom’s of Maine is considering for a $20,000 grant. Five programs will receive the money.

Tom’s of Maine, a natural personal care product company, is administering the grants as part of its 50 States for Good program.

The YAC is competing with programs from Brooklyn, Seattle and St. Paul, Minn.

“Some of these cities have populations equal almost the entire state of Mississippi,” Wayne Andrews, director of the YAC, said in an email to the Mississippi Business Journal.

You can help the YAC land the grant. Visit this site and vote for the Powerhouse. It’s easy, and it benefits a worthy venture.

So as they say in Chicago, vote early and often.

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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.

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.

October revenue numbers well below estimates

November 2nd, 2009 No comments

It’s appropriate that Halloween was two days ago, because the state’s revenue collections for October that were released just a few minutes ago are frightening.

Per Kathy Waterbury of the Mississippi State Tax Commission:

• The MSTC collected $390 million in October, which is $27.8 million below the estimate made just before the Legislature adjourned the 2009 session in late June. Advancing the Halloween theme, that represents a shortfall of 6.66 percent.

• For the first four months of fiscal  year 2010, revenue is 7.42 percent short of estimates, for a total shortfall of $105.2 million. Spread out over the entire fiscal year, that would put the state short about $315 million by the time FY11 start next July 1. That number is right in the middle of Gov. Haley Barbour’s $275 million to $350 million estimate he made when he announced budget cuts in September.

As has been the case in prior months, sales tax revenue and individual income tax revenue led the downward spiral, Waterbury said.

Magnolia Marketplace will be at the monthly meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps at lunch today. Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones is the speaker. It will be interesting to see what he says about his institution’s budget situation as it relates to today’s revenue news. We’ll have the details as soon as they’re available.

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.