Why isn’t Cawood consulting our community colleges?

January 5th, 2011 No comments

Remember Mississippi Beef Processors? A handful of Mississippi politicians certainly do.

Before Dickie Scruggs, his son and associates found themselves in federal prosecutors’ crosshairs, the rise and fall of the beef plant that cost Mississippi taxpayers $55 million and 400 jobs was the biggest political scandal in quite some time here.

Anyway, one of the executives of The Facilities Group, a Smyrna, Ga., company that managed the construction of the plant, was turned loose yesterday from his court-ordered supervision by a federal judge in North Mississippi.

Nixon Cawood was one of three Facilities Group executives who received modest prison terms for their roles in orchestrating illegal campaign contributions to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who they were depending on to save the deal from death once it became clear to agriculture experts that there was no market for cull cattle, or not enough of one to support the plant in Oakland.

Robert Moultrie and Charles Morehead, Cawood’s colleagues, have been released from prison within the past year, according to federal prison records.

Cawood’s appearance before District Judge Michael Mills yesterday was a lot more pleasant than his first encounter with Mills exactly two years ago. Before Mills sentenced Cawood to eight months in prison, Cawood’s attorney asked for leniency for his client, which is what attorneys are supposed to do in those situations. What made Cawood’s plea interesting, though, is that his idea of leniency included serving as a consultant to Mississippi’s community college system. It was his way of performing community service, his attorney said then.

Mills, naturally, almost laughed Cawood and his counsel out of his courtroom. Since then, Cawood has served his time and paid his fines, so the only mark he has left from the whole ordeal is a felony conviction.

Cawood apparently has since gotten a job managing a real estate firm in Georgia. Guess the consulting gig didn’t work out. Reckon why that is?

GOP speculation and 1,000 jobs in the Pine Belt (Updated)

January 4th, 2011 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace just wrapped up a phone conversation with one of our political type friends, in which we talked about two things: the supposed economic development deal Gov. Haley Barbour will announce today and who might succeed Brad White as state GOP chairman.

White announced this morning he would step down and run for Simpson County chancery clerk.

So let’s get to it.

The general consensus is that whatever deal Barbour will reveal will have something to do with Hattiesburg, and will bring somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 jobs. “I know nothing beyond that,” said our friend.

Barbour, as is his wont, is staying quiet on the issue until he’s ready to make it official.

Our source was a little more knowledgeable on the subject of the new GOP chairman. He threw out two names — former state GOP executive director Arnie Hederman and current lawmaker Phillip Gunn from Clinton.

Hederman was executive director under former chairman Jim Herring. The chairman sets policy and runs meetings, while the executive director runs the day-to-day operations. White has filled both the executive director and chairman roles since he was elected in spring 2008.

The executive commitee that will select a new chairman could opt to appoint one person to fill both seats, or split it like they did with the Hederman-Herring duo. Naturally, Barbour will have a big say in who slides into either seat, because the executive committee will defer greatly to what Barbour wants.

But with Barbour’s time as governor running out, his replacement could decide to bring in his own person, so that situation could be fluid for the next year.

Another name to keep in mind, and we have nothing but our imagination to thank for this: Hayes Dent. The Jackson lobbyist, who like Barbour is from Yazoo City, has been active in GOP politics for three decades. He knows the landscape.

So stay tuned, as they say.

UPDATED AT 10:05 A.M.: Naturally, as soon as we hit the publish button, Barbour issues a release. Here it is, in full:

Hattiesburg – Governor Haley Barbour and officials from Stion, a venture-backed manufacturer of high-efficiency, low-cost thin film solar panels, announced today the company is locating a 100-megawatt solar panel production facility in Hattiesburg, Miss. The operations will be located in the Sunbeam building. The production line is the first phase of a company investment of $500 million that will create 1,000 new jobs over the next six years.
“Today’s announcement that Stion is locating a thin film solar panel manufacturing facility in Hattiesburg is further proof that Mississippi is an ideal location for clean energy companies to locate and expand,” Governor Haley Barbour said. “I am pleased to welcome Stion to Mississippi, and I thank the company for creating so many high-quality jobs for Mississippi’s workers.”
From its Hattiesburg location, Stion will utilize its proprietary material and process expertise to produce its high-efficiency, thin film solar panels. The 110W to 120W panels are designed for use in all major applications, including commercial /government, residential, utility and off-grid and offer significant cost and performance advantages over many competing products. The company will use approximately 300,000 square feet of the Hattiesburg facility to manufacture the solar panels.
“Together, the state of Mississippi, Forrest County, and the city of Hattiesburg offer a business-friendly location with a strong resource base for manufacturing,” said Chet Farris, Stion’s president and chief executive officer. “We are pleased to partner with them to help increase domestic production of clean energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the local and national economy.”
The State of Mississippi is providing loan assistance totaling $75 million through the Mississippi Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund, pending approval by the Legislature. The State is
also providing clean energy tax incentives and workforce training incentives for the project. Additionally, local officials provided tax and other financial incentives to assist with the project.
“In 2010, Mississippi sought legislation to target clean energy companies, and Stion’s location in Hattiesburg is a result of this effort,” said Gray Swoope, Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) executive director. “I am excited to see Stion occupy the Sunbeam building. I know firsthand that the quality of the building coupled with the area’s workforce equals a win-win situation for the community and the company.”
Founded in 2006, Stion currently produces its highly-efficient, low-cost thin film solar panels in its state-of-the-art, 100,000-square-foot manufacturing and research and development facility in San Jose, Calif., where the company is headquartered.
To learn more about Stion, please visit the company’s website at www.stion.com.

Barbour to reveal economic development deal tomorrow?

January 3rd, 2011 No comments

It’s the first work day of the new year, and Magnolia Marketplace thought we might be able to catch Dan Turner off his guard.

We didn’t.

Reports have surfaced this afternoon that Gov. Haley Barbour will announce an economic development project Tuesday morning. So will he?

“You know we don’t comment on any economic development deal until it’s officially announced,” Turner said.

In the past month or so, we’ve heard rumors of a deal for Hattiesburg, Tupelo and all points in between, but there’s been nobody willing to put their name on it. Maybe Barbour will fill in some gaps tomorrow.

So stay tuned.

Hyde-Smith’s defection a step toward run for ag commish?

December 28th, 2010 No comments

New Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven cemented her status as one of Magnolia Marketplace’s favorite legislators in the 2009 session.

It was during the Senate’s debate before the vote on whether to override or sustain Gov. Haley Barbour’s veto of a bill that would have restricted the use of eminent domain for projects of direct public use, like roads and bridges, and eliminated it as a tool for private economic development.

As we all know, Barbour’s veto was sustained. Hyde-Smith voted to override it, but not before she gave one of the best floor speeches we’ve ever heard. The highlight of her diatribe was a warning to her fellow lawmakers. Hyde-Smith said her colleagues who voted to sustain Barbour’s veto “had better have asbestos underwear because somebody’s going to light your rear-end on fire when you get back home.” The rest of the day, folks called her “the asbestos lady.”

Hyde-Smith was one of three state officials who switched from the Democratic party to the GOP this afternoon, during a ceremony at Republican headquarters in Jackson. Magnolia Marketplace couldn’t make it because we had an appointment with a source we’d been trying to run down for more than a week.

Hyde-Smith joins Rep. Bobby Shows of Ellisville and Simpson County Superintendent of Education Joe Welch in trading a donkey for an elephant.

But it’s Hyde-Smith’s defection that is the most interesting, and here’s why: She’s a cattle farmer when she’s not at the capitol. She chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. The current commissioner of agriculture, Lester Spell, has already said he won’t seek re-election next year.

Even before November’s midterms, Democrats — with few exceptions like Attorney General Jim Hood — haven’t done well in statewide races.

We’ve heard Hyde-Smith’s name brought up in recent casual political conversations about candidates for down-ballot offices in 2011.

We ran this theory by two political types.

“Makes sense,” said one.

“We’ll see,” said the other.

We just left a voicemail on Hyde-Smith’s cell phone. If and when she gets back to us, we’ll let you know what she says.

Barbour responds to Weekly Standard ruccus

December 21st, 2010 1 comment

Gov. Haley Barbour has endured another round of racially tinged criticism for comments in this week’s Weekly Standard, in which he said the Citizens Council played an important role in keeping civil rights unrest to a minimum in his hometown of Yazoo City. 

It took center stage on most of this morning’s talk shows. Barbour, either directly or through his spokesman, has been asked enough about it that he decided to issue a statement about the matter.

This comes a few months after Barbour received similar fire for his assertion that the raised hackles over Confederate History Month “didn’t amount to diddly.”

Here is his statement, in full:

“When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns’ integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn’t tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the ‘Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time.”

Categories: Elections, Haley Barbour, News, Politics Tags:

Nicholas: CottonMill deal to close mid-January

December 20th, 2010 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace just wrapped up a phone conversation with Mark Nicholas, whose Ridgeland-based Nicholas Properties is one of the developers of CottonMill Marketplace, the giant mixed-use project in Starkville.

We played phone tag with Nicholas last week when we were trying to run him down for the CottonMill update we had in this week’s MBJ. We caught him this morning as he was driving to Starkville.

Here’s what Nicholas told us:

He expects to close on the financing on or close to Jan. 15. Construction would begin almost immediately afterward.

“It’s going to happen,” said Nicholas, who’s been working on CottonMill for more than three years. “Nothing about this has been easy. The combination of funding we’ll use — bonds, grants, tax credits, TIF — it takes a while to pull all that together. But there’s not much that can stop it now.”

The two phases of the project will total about $120 million. The first phase will include the renovation of the old E.E. Cooley Building into office space and a conference center, a parking deck and the construction of a hotel and a restaurant. The second phase will include student housing and retail space. Nicholas said he expects construction to last about 18 months.

A log cabin on the southeast part of the site that once housed a Burker King will be disassembled. Nicholas said he sold the cabin to Jackson attorney and real estate developer John Arthur Eaves, who has plans to erect the cabin in Oxford, though it’s unclear what it will be once it arrives.

So that’s where we are. We’ll have more updates about this once it gets closer to the second week of January.

‘Tis the season for verifying

December 15th, 2010 No comments

Mississippians, and we’re not breaking any new ground here, are generous folks.

The holiday season brings out the best of that generosity, but it also turbo-charges the counter-culture of charitable scams.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has kicked off his annual campaign to keep those scams to a minimum.

Hosemann’s “Check Your Charity” tool is available on his website here.  Check Your Charity publishes the financial particulars of charities registered with the state, which they’re required by law to do. You can get a break down of  how much money actually went to a charity’s cause, and how much went elsewhere.

The Better Business Bureau says that a valid charity spends at least 65 percent of its money toward its mission. 

So after you’ve verified that your targeted charity is legit, give as much as you can so we can maintain our reputation for being nice and caring people.

Categories: Delbert Hosemann, News Tags:

Judge’s healthcare ruling sets up the inevitable (updated)

December 13th, 2010 No comments

Monday morning’s ruling by a federal judge in Virginia that struck down the mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is another setback for Democrats, sure.

But all the ruling does is affirm what we already knew: The U.S. Supreme Court will have final say. No matter which way the lower courts ruled in the slew of lawsuits that have challenged the healthcare reform legislation, the losing side would appeal until it reached SCOTUS.

If you’re interested, read Monday’s ruling here.

UPDATE: Gov. Haley Barbour has just released a statement about the ruling. Here it is, in full:

“The decision of the federal court in Virginia is encouraging to all of us who consider the Obamacare law unconstitutional; however, we know the case will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

SECOND UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant has issued his own statement. It says:

“I have believed this act to be unconstitutional from the very beginning, and that is why I filed the very first private lawsuit challenging the health care law. I commend federal Judge Henry E. Hudson in Virginia for standing up against a law that strips states and individuals of the freedom to choose health insurance.”
Categories: Haley Barbour, News, Phil Bryant, Politics Tags:

Speculation and a schedule change

December 8th, 2010 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace won’t be able to make this afternoon’s announcement at the state GOP headquarters about the party’s newest member. A schedule change will have us in North Jackson for something we’re working on for next week.

But we keep hearing the name Lynn Posey, who represents the Central District on the Public Service Commission. If that’s true, Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley will be the lone Democrat on the PSC.

It will do nothing to change the voting dynamics of the PSC. Posey votes with Republican Leonard Bentz, who reps the Southern District, more times than not.

Either way, our colleague Amy McCullough will be there for the festivities, and she’ll have something on the MBJ website soon afterward. Stay tuned.

Categories: News, Politics, PSC Tags:

GOP leadership to welcome party-switcher

December 7th, 2010 No comments

The Mississippi Republican Party just announced that it will welcome a new member into the fold Wednesday afternoon at a press conference at the GOP building on Congress Street in Jackson.

The press release doesn’t say who it is, but did say it’s a Democratic state official, which means it’s most likely a member of the Legislature. Gov. Haley Barbour will be there, as will state GOP Chairman Brad White.

Magnolia Marketplace will be there at 1 p.m., and we’ll have the ins and outs shortly thereafter, so be ready.

Categories: Brad White, Haley Barbour, News, Politics Tags: