DuPont signs new lease at state port

July 11th, 2013 1 comment

DuPont has signed a 30-year lease at the Mississippi State Port of Gulfport that could keep the company there a total of 60 years.

The Mississippi State Port Authority announced the move Thursday. The 30-year lease has three, 10-year renewal options.

Under the agreement, DuPont will relocate its current ore receiving and storage operation to the southern end of the west pier.

Port director Jonathan Daniels said in a press release the pact requires DuPont to increase its annual tonnage a minimum of 29 percent.

“This expansion will certainly support our restoration efforts and job growth at the Port of Gulfport and DuPont’s DeLisle facility.

The new ore receiving and storage unit, whose construction is scheduled to start next year, will serve DuPont’s facility in DeLisle, which has been in operation since 1979. The facility produces titanium dioxide used in paints, inks, paper, textile fibers and plastics.

The Port Commission will contribute between $23 million and $80 million in construction costs.

“The DuPont expansion and long term lease at the Port of Gulfport shows the company’s confidence in the long term potential of the port,” said Mississippi Development Authority executive director Brent Christensen. “As we continue to invest in the port, we expect to see more companies take DuPont’s lead and expand or locate their operations at the facility, creating more job opportunities for Mississippi workers.”

Grant to fund financial literacy program at MSU

July 10th, 2013 No comments

A $40,000 grant from the Council of Graduate Schools will help Mississippi State University develop a financial education program for undergraduate and graduate students.

The grant is part of CGS’ Enhancing Financial Education Project, and is co-sponsored by financial services provider TIAA-CREF. The program will be designed to educate students about how to manage their personal financing and make good decisions related to saving, spending and borrowing money.

It will include face-to-face workshops, online training, traditional courses, career counseling, communication networks and social media.

Karen Coats, MSU associate dean of the Graduate School and co-principal investigator for the project, said student loan debt exceeded $1 trillion nationwide last year.

“As students amass debt at the undergraduate level, many of our best and brightest are unable to continue their education in graduate or professional school, preventing them from achieving mastery of their discipline and limiting their ability to reach their full potential,” Coats said in a school press release. “Mississippi State is committed to the well-being of our students and recognizes the need to help students make sound and informed financial decisions.”

Mississippi State’s Office of the Graduate School, in partnership with faculty and staff experts in financial literacy, student financial aid, information systems and technology, career counseling, and other student services, will use the funding to establish a comprehensive financial literacy program for MSU students.

“It is our hope that this program will promote financially informed students who will leave our institution with a brighter future,” Coats said.

CGS President Debra W. Stewart said that the project addresses an area of leading concern for graduate deans, according to an annual survey of CGS members.

“In collaboration with 14 other awardees and 19 affiliate partners, Mississippi State University is stepping up to help students prepare for the financial challenges of college life and beyond,” Stewart said.

At the Capitol, state Treasurer Lynn Fitch supported legislation this last session that would have mandated financial literacy courses for Mississippi high school students. The legislation failed, but Fitch has said she will push it again in 2014.

Parkway closing its Jackson office by year’s end

July 2nd, 2013 No comments

Parkway Properties will close its Jackson office by the end of the year.

Parkway notified the office’s approximately 40 employees yesterday, a company spokesperson said.

The real estate investment trust has its Mississippi offices in downtown Jackson’s One Jackson Place. It sold most of its Mississippi portfolio within the past couple years. The only property it still owns in Mississippi is the City Centre in downtown Jackson. Parkway has maintained a presence in Jackson since the mid-1980s. The company moved its corporate headquarters from Jackson to Orlando early last year.

A Parkway spokesperson said the decision was made recently, and is meant to consolidate IT, HR, accounting and similar services into the company’s Orlando office. Jackson employees will be offered a severance package, and will be given the chance to apply for jobs in the Orlando office.

Parkway owns or has an interest in 45 office properties in eight states, most of those in the Sunbelt region.  As of April 1, Parkway had approximately 13 million square feet of leasable space, and managed or leased just under 12 million square feet of space for third-party owners.

The company has offices in Atlanta, Charlotte, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Tampa and Houston.

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Nissan sets June sales record

July 2nd, 2013 No comments

Toyota and Nissan each reported Tuesday morning that June sales were up over last year.

Toyota sales were up 14 percent; Nissan’s rose 12.9 percent.

Last month had one more selling day than June 2012.

Nissan’s U.S. sales set a June record, with 104,124 units. Nissan Division sales also set a June record, with 95,010 units sold. That represents a 16.1 percent increase over last June.

Sales of the Altima, which is made in Canton, were up 23 percent to 26,902 units, also a June record.

For the first half of 2013, Toyota sold 1,108,791 units on one less selling day than the first half of 2012. That represents a 6.7 percent increase on a daily selling rate basis. Unadjusted, sales were up 6 percent year over year.

“The auto industry led the economic recovery through the first half of 2013, kicking off a strong summer selling season, which we expect will carry into the second half of the year,” said Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. “Sales in June were solid, and demand didn’t skip a beat.  Customers are already showing an interest in the all-new Corolla, our hybrid lineup had its best-ever June and Camry topped 35,000 units.”

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MSU grants oil extraction license to Jackson company

June 28th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi State has granted a commercialization license to a Jackson-based company for a technology developed and owned by the university.

The technology extracts oil from microorganisms.

Bio Energy Spectrum Solutions, LLC, received the exclusive right to commercialize MSU’s patented technology involving extracting biocrude from oleaginous microorganisms, which are found in wastewater treatment facilities. The microorganisms accumulate oil similar to vegetable oil or animal fat.

The company plans to build the world’s first commercially viable biocrude plant that uses industrial and municipal wastewaters.

Darryl Breland, president of Spectrum Solutions, said biocrude is the world’s latest and most promising alternative energy source because it is more cost effective than any other biofuel.

The company is co-owned by Rafael Hernandez and Todd French, who both were Mississippi State chemical engineering faculty members and co-inventors of the technology. French remains at MSU as an associate professor, while Hernandez now is head of the chemical engineering department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Andro Mondala, an MSU senior research associate who previously completed his doctoral degree at MSU and helped develop the technology as part of his dissertation, also is a co-owner.

The project orlginated under the Mississippi University Research Authority (MURA) Act. The 1992 legislation was designed to spur economic development by linking university researchers with private sector partners to commercialize inventions, innovations and other intellectual property.

The Mississippi State University Research and Technology Corporation will maintain a 5 percent equity interest in the company, per the licensing agreement.

“Unlike other manufacturers of biofuels, biocrude is not made from an expensive food-based feedstock such as soy oil, corn oil or yellow grease, but is made from secondary sewage sludge, which many cities and industries would be willing to pay our company to take from them,” Breland said in a school press release.

Spectrum Solutions is in the early stages of evaluating the feasibility of implementing the biocrude production technology with several U.S. municipalities and major industries, and has started discussions with potential sub-licensees in various countries around the world.

“The process is scalable and environmentally friendly, which is a great combination. MSU and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer are pleased to partner with Spectrum in commercializing this technology,” said Gerald Nelson, director of MSU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.

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Paula Deen casino restaurant in Tunica to be rebranded

June 26th, 2013 20 comments

Caesars Entertainment Corp. announced Wednesday morning that it will end its relationship with Paula Deen.

All Deen restaurants on Caesars property will be rebranded, including the Paula Deen Buffet at Harrah’s Casino in Tunica. A Caesars press release said the shift would happen in “the coming months.”

“While we appreciate Paula’s sincere apologies for statements she made in her past that she recently disclosed during a deposition given in response to a lawsuit, after thoughtful consideration of their impact, we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment.

Comments Deen made in a deposition connected to a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee have made the past couple weeks unpleasant for the culinary celebrity. In the deposition, Deen admitted to using racial slurs, and to planning a wedding for a family member in which African-American workers were to dress as slaves. She has since apologized. In an interview that aired Wednesday  morning on “The Today Show,” a tearful Deen said she wasn’t a racist.

Caesars joins a procession of companies to sever its relationship with Deen. That includes The Food Network, which provided Deen some of her first national exposure.

16th Section revenue tops $89 million

June 24th, 2013 No comments

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Monday that revenue from 16th Section land leases reached $89.2 million for fiscal year 2012, which ended last July.

The money goes to school districts.

“This $89-Million will help alleviate some of the financial headaches faced by our school districts today,” Hosemann said in a press release. “In times of serious cutbacks and strict budgets, we were able to increase revenue generated on these public lands to benefit education.”

Hosemann said annual revenue from the leases has increased $34 million since he took office in 2008.

Hosemann’s office executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mississippi Forestry Commission to develop forest management plans for 16th Section land with timber on it. Plans are designed to maximize revenue generated by selling timber. Oil royalty payments have also increased.

All 16th Section leases are posted on the secretary of state’s website at

“I made a promise I would protect our public lands for schoolchildren.  Time and time again, we have seen attempts to raid 16th Section land funds for short term gains,” Hosemann said. “This increase in funding shows sound management practices are producing cash results.”

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NFIB unveils new insurance options for members

June 21st, 2013 No comments

The National Federation of Independent Businesses has started a new program designed to provide its 350,000 members easier access to personal health insurance plans.

The program is a partnership between NFIB, a small business advocacy group, and health insurance provider UnitedHealthCare. It will be administered by UnitedHealthOne Agency, an affiliate of United HealthCare.

Health insurance options include co-pay plans, which are similar to traditional employer-sponsored coverage, lower-cost high deductible plans and health savings account plans Dental, vision, critical illness and disability insurance will be offered to NFIB members. The plans are underwritten by UnitedHealthCare’s Golden Rule Insurance Company.

“The new program provides access to personal health insurance options for small business owners that fit individual budgets and offer a network of quality health providers,” said Mark Garzone, senior vice president of marketing for NFIB, in a press release.

“Working together with the UnitedHealthOne Agency, we can now give our members easier access to quality, affordable individual insurance plans that give small business owners and their families the choices they want and the coverage they need.”

NFIB members interested in more information on the new program can visit or call 888-280-3511.


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Bentz: Sierra Club claim about Kemper overrun incorrect (Updated)

June 20th, 2013 1 comment

The Sierra Club has filed papers with the Mississippi Supreme Court asking justices to direct the Mississippi Public Service Commission to supply records pertaining to a $366 million cost overrun at Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County coal plant.

The overrun was revealed in May 2012, shortly after the PSC reissued the plant’s certificate of public convenience and necessity. Regulators reissued the certificate after the state high court invalidated the first one that was issued in 2010, saying in a ruling that it did not properly cite the record of proceedings.

Southern District Commissioner Leonard Bentz and his staff have been investigating when the utility knew about the overrun. Bentz said in May that gathering information the past year has been difficult because former Mississippi Power president Ed Day had ordered it withheld. Day resigned last month and was replaced by Ed Holland.

In a Wednesday press release, the Sierra Club said Bentz and Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey – who along with Bentz has voted in favor of the project – should have known about the $366 million overrun when they voted to reissue the plant’s certificate.

The environmental advocacy organization, which has long opposed the plant, says a timeline prepared by Mississippi Power shows that both the utility and commissioners knew about the overrun in March 2012.

Bentz disputed that in an interview Thursday morning. He said regulators had been alerted by their independent monitors that there were “cost constraints” related to the plant.

“But we never knew a number” until Mississippi Power revealed the $366 million overrun, he said. “Our issue is about the power company not giving us the information we requested.”

Bentz said the investigation into when the utility knew about the overrun should be finished by early August.

“And if need be, we’ll have hearings,” Bentz said. “That’s a fact. We’re even looking at some options on the prudency hearings to make sure that (MPC) will not be given the green light before we get to the bottom of this. That’s in the best interest of the ratepayer.”

The coal plant is scheduled to start commercial operation in May 2014. Bentz reiterated that the utility, per the terms of a settlement with the PSC, will be allowed to charge ratepayers no more than $2.4 billion in construction costs. “That’s always been the number,” he said.

UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, the Mississippi Supreme Court consolidated two different sets of litigation surrounding the project. Justices also ordered that attorneys for a Hattiesburg resident who is challenging the Baseload Act — the 2008 law that allows utilities to charge ratepayers for facilities as they are being built — and Mississippi Power submit briefs related to the issue within 30 days. That would set July 21 as the briefing deadline. The court heard oral arguments on the Baseload issue earlier this year.

Corps of Engineers clarifies firearms rules in light of new carry law

June 19th, 2013 No comments

The Vicksburg District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says federal regulations still prohibit the possession of firearms on Corps property, in light of Mississippi’s new open carry law.

Lawmakers passed last session House Bill 2, which allows firearms to be openly carried without a permit. Firearms cannot be concealed without a concealed carry permit.

In a press release, Corps officials said a 2009 federal law that allows guns in national parks could lead to some confusion. That statute did not include parks governed by the Corps. Violating the Corps’ no-firearms policy is punishable by a fine not to exceed $5,000, six months’ imprisonment, or both.

Exceptions include firearms carried by law enforcement, those being transported between hunting and fishing sites (as long as they’re unloaded), those being used at authorized firing ranges, or carriers who have received written permission from the district commander.

Corps figures say that more than 3 million people visit annually the 262,000-acre recreational areas under the Vicksburg District’s purview. That includes, campgrounds, playgrounds, swimming areas, trails, fishing areas, boat ramps, marinas and marinas. The economic impact of those visitors, the Corps estimates, is $125 million a year, and supported 1,700 jobs.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood last week issued an opinion on House Bill 2. It said that people who are not a convicted felon can openly carry firearms, except where prohibited. Examples include private businesses that choose not to allow customers to carry, and on certain state and federal property, like Corps installations and courthouses.