Like its counterparts, Jackson’s Whole foods will carry unique design

November 8th, 2012 No comments

Dirt turned Thursday morning on the Whole Foods Market in Jackson’s Highland Village.

Like the other 400 Whole Foods, the design of Jackson’s store will be unique.

The front of Whole Foods Market in Jackson will face north toward Northside Drive. The store is scheduled to open fall 2013.

“We’ve never built two stores that are alike,” said Omar Gaye, Whole Foods South Region president, just before he joined Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson and half the City Council in jabbing shovels in the ground. “We want to build a store that looks like the community.”

Whole Foods will sit to the east of the existing buildings that make up Highland Village. The store’s east side will run directly alongside and parallel to Old Canton Road. The front of the store will face north toward Northside Drive.

To go with the design, the construction site will also separate Jackson’s store from its counterparts. “Building a store on a parking lot will not be easy,” Gaye said. He added that the site plan went through “100s of different designs” before finding one that fit the space.

The parking lot to the north of the store will remain, and will be reconfigured to add parking spaces to make up at least some of those that will be lost, said Lou Masiello, vice president of development for WS Development. Chestnut Hill, Mass.-based WS acquired a controlling interest in Highland Village last month. The retail development company has Whole Foods stores in some of its Northeastern U.S. properties.

White Construction Co. of Jackson will build the 30,000 square-foot Jackson store, scheduled to open fall of next year. It will be the first Whole Foods in Mississippi.

Aerial view of Whole Foods location in Highland Village – Jackson.

Whole Foods to break ground Thursday

November 6th, 2012 4 comments

Whole Foods Market will break ground Thursday morning on its 30,000 square-foot store in Jackson’s Highland Village, the company said Tuesday.

The groundbreaking ceremony will be held under a tent in Highland Village’s east parking lot. The store will sit between existing buildings at the shopping center and Old Canton Road. It will be the first foray into Mississippi for the grocer specializing in natural and organic food. Overall, the Austin, Texas-based company has 400 stores in 40 states.

A Whole Foods spokesperson told the Mississippi Business Journal in October that the store would open sometime next fall. Company officials originally targeted Thanksgiving 2013 as the opening date, but a spokesperson would not commit to that last month.

This will be the second major event for Highland Village in the past couple weeks. Built in the early 1970s by late businessman Jimmy Fowler, the 220,000 square foot shopping center is now controlled by Massachusetts-based WS Development. Fowler’s family had owned and operated the center since its opening. WS officials promised then that the transaction would not hinder Whole Foods’ arrival.

Whole Foods’ announcement last spring that it was coming to Jackson was the culmination of several months of negotiations with Highland Village, and was met with no small amount of enthusiasm. Two studies done within the past six years – one conducted by Realtors, another by Citigroup – have found that commercial and residential real estate in the area of a Whole Foods experienced a bump in value that ranged from 10 to 20 percent.

Anti-corruption group to make stop in Jackson Tuesday

November 6th, 2012 No comments

Protests of every kind imaginable are common on Election Day, and things won’t be any different in Jackson.

Lawless America, whose website says is intended to root out government and judicial corruption, will be in town somewhere, though the website doesn’t say exactly where or when.

The itinerary (posted here) says members will start the day in Baton Rouge, so it’s likely it will be at least after lunch before they arrive in Mississippi. If the group holds form, whatever protest it has planned will occur near the Capitol or near the Gartin Justice Building, which houses the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi Court of Appeals.

One of Lawless America’s more ambitious projects is its plans to stretch a ribbon of yellow crime scene tape in front of government buildings across the country. Scenes from each of its protests are being compiled into a movie, too. Again, it’s not clear if the group plans to make its stop in Jackson a part of either project, but it’s a possibility.

The group also maintains a database on officials by state that it considers to be corrupt, or at least less than honest. Mississippi’s list includes leaders from both parties, attorneys and judges. It can be viewed here.

Nash, Taggart predict state and presidential elections

November 5th, 2012 No comments

Political analysts Andy Taggart and Jere Nash did not agree on many things at Monday’s Stennis Capitol Press Corps luncheon.

A victory by Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. against state Rep. Earle Banks was one. Waller and Banks are running for a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court out of the state’s central district.

Nash, a Democratic campaign consultant, said what’s most caught his attention about the race is the relative lack of involvement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Aside from a few radio spots, the Chamber is staying out of the Banks-Waller race. That duplicates the organization’s approach from 2008, when current supreme court justice Jim Kitchens defeated then-chief justice Jim Smith in what was considered an upset.

That, and the fact that Pres. Barack Obama won the district by 23,000 votes in 2008, is why Nash thinks there is a chance Banks unseats Waller. “It’s unlikely, but it’s possible,” Nash said.

Taggart, a Madison attorney who served as former Gov. Kirk Fordice’s chief of staff, was unconvinced there was much possibility of an upset by Banks, who has been endorsed by the state Democratic party in the nonpartisan race. Taggart cited the Waller family’s history in Democratic politics and Waller’s likeable demeanor as reasons he would be hard to beat.

Taggart would not offer a prediction about the northern district’s supreme court race – one of his sons is involved in Josiah Coleman’s campaign – but Nash said Coleman, an Oxford attorney, would most likely beat Batesville attorney Richard “Flip” Phillips. The two are running to replace retiring justice George Carlson.

Groups not affiliated with Coleman – including one associated with the Mississippi Business and Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC) – have run ads that accuse Phillips of being under the control of the state’s plaintiffs’ lawyers.

It’s that influx of outside spending that Nash thinks will push Coleman to victory. Coleman has been endorsed by the state GOP; Phillips is being backed by state Democrats.

Nash and Taggart predicted their party’s candidate would win the presidential election. Taggart said Mitt Romney had to win swing states Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. Ohio was not a must-get, but if Romney were to win it, that “would bring down the president’s entire firewall and would turn the election into a landslide for Romney,” Taggart said. Taggart cited poll numbers from independent voters in a number of swing states that showed the group felt the country was headed in the wrong direction. “That’s always good news for a challenger.”

Nash said Obama would win because the president’s campaign has done a better delivering and controlling its message – specifically, not allowing Romney make the election completely about the economy.

“And Romney has gotten only one lucky break, which was the Denver debate,” Nash said, referring to the first debate between the candidates in which Obama himself admitted he was outdone. “The Obama campaign has gotten several lucky breaks — Todd Akin, 47 percent, Hurricane Sandy and Chris Christie.”


Retreat focuses, unleashes upgrades to Sports Hall of Fame and Museum

November 2nd, 2012 No comments

Rick Cleveland has spent a lot of his first six months as executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum compiling a list of upgrades.

That list got prioritized Monday, when Cleveland and most of his 24 board members held a one-day retreat at Luckett Lodge in Brandon.

Phil Hardwick, coordinator of capacity development for Mississippi State’s Stennis Institute of Government, served as moderator/facilitator for the retreat, something he does regularly for nonprofits, business groups and government agencies.

The process of coordinating a goal-oriented, fact-finding retreat always starts with self-evaluation, Hardwick said.

“Basically, we start out with where we are and how we got there,” Hardwick said. “Next is to think about what we do well and what we can do better.”

The answers to those questions, which are formulated after the whole group breaks into smaller groups, are meant to serve as a vision statement for the Hall of Fame, which begins with an incomplete phrase: “I’ll be proud of the Sports Hall of Fame in three years if …”

If the breakout groups serve to fill in the vision statement, the retreat’s overall goal is to set goals. More specifically, it’s to prioritize Cleveland’s list of improvements.

“We took that list and prioritized it,” Hardwick said.

Cleveland said Friday morning that three projects are in the works, funding in hand. Leading off will be refurbishing the Olympic Room’s photos that were back-lit and faded. The redone exhibit will be top-lit, the photos rendered fade-proof and new athletes added that will bring the room current through 2012.

The facility’s entrance will also be rearranged. Clear cases will be stationed right at the front, and will be stocked with memorabilia from that year’s Hall of Fame inductees. The display will rotate every year, as the Hall of Fame adds new members.

“That was the original plan for the entrance, but it’s just gotten away from us,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland’s board also gave him the go-ahead to start upgrading the museum’s interactive kiosks, which are original to the 1996 opening. The new kiosks will have bigger screens, high-definition images, and current content. “They’re the heart and soul of the museum,” Cleveland said.

The fourth project that gained board approval, but doesn’t have funding in place, is a new exhibit that showcases Mississippi’s all-time NFL team. The museum’s original display was broken several years ago. Cleveland said he has started the process of rounding up corporate sponsorships that will pay for a large portion of the exhibit’s cost.

“If I can’t sell Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Archie Manning and Brett Favre in Mississippi, I’m in the wrong business,” he said.


MSU economists lay out good news and bad news related to Sandy’s financial impact

October 30th, 2012 No comments

The economic damage from Sandy, which meteorologists and scientists dubbed “Frankenstorm” before and during her strike on the Northeastern U.S. Monday, will likely take months to calculate.

Mississippi State University economists said Tuesday that, like the storm surge in Manhattan and along the Jersey Shore, Sandy’s financial impact could be historic. Part of that will be the losses incurred by the New York Stock Exchange’s closure Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s very rare for the markets to close, even for a weather event,” said Mike Highfield, associate professor of finance and head of Mississippi State University’s Department of Finance and Economics.

The last time markets closed due to weather was 1888. Officials announced Tuesday morning that they would reopen Wednesday.

Based on history, Highfield said the reopening could produce less-than-desirable results. “Many times we see a fall when the stock market does reopen, mainly because of the event itself which caused the closure.”

Because Sandy made landfall among the heavily populated Eastern Seaboard – New York City got a direct hit, and Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia were heavily impacted – Highfield said an economic loss of $20 billion just in property dame is possible. Factor in loss of tax revenue from wages, lost work time, and a general loss of commerce, and that figure could rise to $60 billion, he said.

That could make for a short-term economic slide, but it could also present investors with opportunities in the industries that support rebuilding. That was the case along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, spurred mainly by Gulf Opportunity Zone Bonds.

Sandy’s death toll as of Tuesday morning had climbed over 30. “In the long run, it may be somewhat of an economic shot, but it will take several, several months. In the meantime, there is a lot of agony and sadness from a human point of view,” Highfield said in a school press release.

If the storm’s track made it potentially more expensive, it could also lead to good news within the oil and gas industry. Gas prices soared in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. That probably won’t be the case with Sandy, said Jon Rezek, associate professor of economics and director of Mississippi State’s international business program. Sandy did nothing to cause supply interruption at any of the Gulf Coast’s 54 refineries. The Northeast is home to only six such facilities.

“For the most part, gasoline will flow from a lot of the refineries down here to the rest of the country, with fairly minimal impact in terms of a price increase,” Rezek said. “In total, these facilities in the Northeast refine only about 6 percent of the country’s crude oil. Given the relative lack of refining capacity in the Northeast, a supply disruption there over the next few days will not likely cause near the disruption that Gulf storms have on national or regional gasoline prices.”

Tuesday, the price for a barrel of benchmark crude oil rose 55 cents to $86.09. The average price for a gallon of gas fell one cent, to $3.53, more than 11 cents cheaper than two weeks ago.


Massive absorber haul for Kemper County coal plant to start Sunday night

October 26th, 2012 1 comment

Those on both sides of Mississippi Power’s Kemper County coal plant have agreed that it’s a massive construction project.

A perfect illustration of that will slowly roll down East Mississippi highways starting Sunday night.

Columbus-based Burkhalter Rigging will transport two hydrogen sulfide absorbers from Bigbee Valley, a Noxubee County outpost 30 miles south of Columbus, to the Kemper site.

The 76-mile trip will take a week to complete, and the sheer numbers of the move are staggering.

Each of the absorbers is 238 feet long, 21 feet wide, 21 feet high and weighs 1.4 million pounds, according to a Burkhalter press release. Each will be carried on trucks and trailers that have a combined 160 axles, with center dollies and wing dollies to be used at bridge crossings to distribute the weight evenly across the span.

This is one of the hydrogen sulfide absorbers Burkhalter Rigging will begin transporting Sunday night to the Kemper County coal plant’s construction site.

Each 732-wheel transport rig will be 28 feet tall, 22 feet wide, 346 feet long and weigh just shy of 2.5 million pounds. When the wing dollies are deployed to get the transporters across the Noxubee River bridge, the rig will grow to a width of 40 feet and roll on 796 tires.

The convoy, which will include all manner of pilot cars and law enforcement vehicles serving as escorts, will leave Tenn-Tom One Stop at 8 p.m. Sunday and travel down Highway 388 to Highway 45, traveling south in the northbound lane to Scooba. From there, it will head west on Highway 16 through DeKalb before turning south on Highway 493, which will drop it off at the Kemper site.

The convoy will only roll at night. Road closure information can be found on the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s website,

The absorbers were built in Korea and shipped to Alabama’s Port of Mobile. When they arrived, Burkhalter crews put them on barges and floated them up the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway to Bigbee Valley.

Daily updates and photos of the haul will be available on Burkhalter’s Facebook page at


In Greenville, Cox intends to finish what Jordan started

October 24th, 2012 No comments

In late September, one day after he revealed he would resign his post due to a terminal cancer diagnosis, former Greenville mayor Chuck Jordan called his longtime friend, John Cox, and asked him to run to replace him.

Cox, an attorney who’s practiced in Greenville for almost 40 years, told Jordan he’d have to clear it with his wife. That promised to be no easy task, since she had told him in 1990 that he was never allowed to enter politics again after Cox had lost a county judge’s race.

“So I had to ask her about five different ways if I could do this,” Cox said Wednesday afternoon.

She relented, Cox entered the race and on Monday was elected to fill the rest of Jordan’s term. He got 57 percent of the vote in a five-person race.

Cox was sworn in Wednesday morning. In a phone interview a few hours afterward, he said he plans to continue implementation of the five-point plan Jordan set in motion late last year. It includes crime reduction, job creation, education accountability, infrastructure improvements and general clean-up.

“When you’ve got something that works, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Cox said. “(Jordan’s) vision and his plan were excellent. Chuck took a lot of time developing that, so I’ve adopted it. Let’s just call it a quality-of-life plan. That’s what has to happen in any community to be successful. To the outside world, to tourists, to businesses, if your quality of life isn’t where it needs to be, you have a problem.”

Cox said he realizes he’s taking the job under less-than-ideal circumstances. Jordan’s announcement last month that he had pancreatic cancer his doctors expected would likely kill him within months blindsided all but those closest to him. Cox was among those who never saw it coming, and didn’t initially know what to tell Jordan when he asked him to run “because I hadn’t even gotten over the emotion of a friend that I’d had for 40 years being dealt a situation like that.”

That conflict resolved, Cox admitted he has a lot of learning to do in his first 100 days in office. Part of that will be establishing a relationship with Greenville’s six city council members, and familiarizing himself with city departments and their personnel. Getting up to speed on the budget and budgeting process is another major agenda item, Cox said.

There are recent successes to build on. Cox listed as an example the first ever Delta Hot Tamale Festival, held Oct. 20. The festival got its name from Jordan, who, in one of his last acts as mayor, declared Greenville the “Hot Tamale Capital of the World.” The distinction is due in no small part to the tamales at Doe’s Eat Place, a restaurant also famous for its steak that is an icon of the Mississippi Delta.

“That was just over the top,” Cox said of the moniker and the festival. “Chuck’s vision is going to affect Greenville for a long time. His shoes are too big for me to fill. I just hope I can grow into them.”

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Mass. company acquires controlling interest in Highland Village

October 24th, 2012 No comments

WS Development announced Wednesday morning that it had acquired a controlling interest in Highland Village shopping center in Jackson.

The company, based in Chestnut Hill, Mass., is making its first entry into Mississippi.

Guy Boyll III, who was Highland Village’s VP of operations under old ownership but will serve as asset manager under the new arrangement, said in a press release that he and other existing partners will work with WS in the management of the 220,000 square-foot, mixed-use shopping center.

The newest retailer – Whole Foods Market – is scheduled to break ground next month on a 30,000 square-foot grocery store that will open next fall.

WS partner Dick Marks said his company’s acquisition of the shopping center does nothing to change that. “We are thrilled to become a part of this extraordinary center and to bring Whole Foods Market to Mississippi.”

Highland Village opened in 1972 and offers nearly 50 retailers, from clothing boutiques to outdoors outfitters to jewelers and fine dining restaurants. It was built by late Jackson businessman and philanthropist Jimmy Fowler. Three generations of his family have owned it since.

Boyll said in a phone interview Wednesday morning that the deal had been in the works for a year and a half. He emphasized that it would do nothing to change Whole Foods’ plans.

Terms were not disclosed, but WS said that it only pursues retail-related real estate investments that exceed $10 million.

“WS Development shares the family’s belief that the best shopping centers not only serve their communities, but also become part of them,” Marks says.

Cox wins special mayoral election in Greenville

October 23rd, 2012 No comments

John Cox appears to have won Monday’s special mayoral election in Greenville.

Cox, an attorney, got 57 percent (3,323) of the 6,339 votes cast, according to figures reported by the Delta Democrat Times.

Just more than 500 affidavit ballots were left to be counted Tuesday morning. Cox turned back three challengers.

The election became necessary in late September, when former mayor Chuck Jordan resigned in the wake of a terminal cancer diagnosis. Jordan endorsed Cox shortly after his resignation.

This is the second consecutive election voters in Greenville, whose population is 78 percent black, have elected a white mayor. Jordan, who retired from the banking industry before his election last year, attributed that to voters prioritizing the future of Greenville over political or social affiliations.

“The people in Greenville have spoken and said they want to go in a new direction,” Jordan told the Mississippi Business Journal in December.

Election commissioners will meet Tuesday afternoon to certify the election results. Cox’s swearing-in is set for Wednesday morning at 9 at Greenville City Hall.

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