Whole Foods opening date shifts slightly

June 13th, 2013 1 comment

The Whole Foods Market under construction in Jackson’s Highland Village will open late this year.

It’s not a big one, but it is a departure from the date given at the groundbreaking last November, when officials said the opening date would be fall 2013.

A Whole Foods spokesperson could not give a more specific date.

“We don’t typically announce an opening date until about three weeks out,” Darrah Horgan Wednesday afternoon in an email to the Mississippi Business Journal.

Horgan said the natural foods grocer has already implemented some of its outreach programs designed to connect local producers with the store. Whole Foods held an open house for local vendors a few months ago, and will have similar events leading up to the opening.

Whole Foods also has a local producer loan program, in which the company makes low-interest loans to potential producers to spruce up their operation enough to meet the company’s standards. Mississippi’s version of that program will also wait until closer to the opening date before starting. Loans range from $1,000 to $100,000.

The Jackson store will be the first Whole Foods in Mississippi. It will sit on the east side of Highland Village adjacent to Old Canton Road. White Construction Co. of Jackson is building the 30,000 square-foot store.

Ole Miss, MSU to hold minority vendor job fair as part of IHL outreach program

June 11th, 2013 2 comments

Ole Miss and Mississippi State will hold a minority vendor fair June 18 in Oxford.

Minority Business Expo: Making The University Connection begins at 1 p.m. in the Jackson Avenue Center Multipurpose Room near the Ole Miss campus. Online registration is available through www.Where2Go411.com  and early registration is encouraged.

The event is the part of the IHL’s push to increase the number of minority-owned businesses that land the agency’s contracts.

Other institutions expects participating in the initiative include Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

IHL has contracted with Where2Go411.com, a Web-based platform that connects vendors to buyers through its quote feature. Minority companies post information about their business and the goods and services they provide. Universities send and receive quotes, proposals and subcontracting opportunities through the online system. This benefits minority businesses with awareness of opportunities and enables them to respond using the website’s easy-to-use method.

While any business can be listed on the site, minority businesses are recruited for inclusion in the featured listing section, which provides access to the quote, RFP, subcontracting opportunity solicitations.

Procurement officers at each of Mississippi’s public universities have been trained how to post opportunities to the site and retrieve quotes and information from the vendors.

“MSU is constantly seeking out new suppliers so we can expand the number of companies participating in the public procurement process,” said Don Buffum, MSU director of procurement and contracts. “We do this by urging departments to seek additional quotes or to try new vendors, actively seeking out new vendors at trade shows, conducting ‘Doing Business With MSU’ seminars, and by maintaining an open-door policy to meet with new vendors.

“Co-hosting the minority vendor fair with Ole Miss on June 18 provides us a great opportunity to implement all those strategies in a single venue,” Buffum continued. “By locating small and minority vendors, we are able to provide our departments with more potential sources while also making a valuable contribution to the economy.”

Toyota unveils redesigned Corolla

June 7th, 2013 No comments

Toyota unveiled the redesigned 2014 Corolla at an event in Santa Monica, Calif., Thursday night.

It will include elements of the Corolla Furia concept car that debuted earlier this year at the North American Auto International Auto Show. The wheelbase will be extended by nearly four inches, with the wheels pushed farther out to the corners.

2014_CorollaLE_Eco_002The front of the compact sedan will look more like its counterparts, the midsize Camry and the full-size Avalon. During last night’s reveal, company executives said the new Corolla was heavy on rounded corners and more precisely sculpted surfaces. LED headlamps are also new, making the Corolla the first compact sedan to offer them as a standard feature.

This will be the Corolla’s 47th year on the market. Its popularity has played a large part in making Toyota the world’s top automotive retail manufacturer. More than 40 million of them have been sold since 1966.

In the U.S, the Corolla is built in Blue Springs, whose facility started production in late 2011. Toyota also has a Corolla plant in Ontario, Canada. Only about five percent are imported from the company’s production facilities in Japan.

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Miss. Power names new VP of generation and development

June 6th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi Power Co. announced Wednesday afternoon that John Huggins has been elected vice president of generation development.

Huggins replaces Tommy Anderson, who abruptly left in April.

Like Anderson, Huggins will oversee the development and construction of the utility’s Kemper County coal plant. Huggins has served since 2010 as general manager of the Kemper County facility’s start-up, engineering and construction services.

“John is not only a proven leader in engineering and construction, but also in implementing and sustaining successful energy facility operations,” Mississippi Power president Ed Holland said in a company press release. “He has the knowledge and experience needed for this role, but most importantly he knows this facility. I have every confidence in his ability to ensure the successful completion of the Kemper project.”

Huggins joined Southern Company in 1972 as an engineer. During his career he has held a number of leadership roles at Mississippi Power, Alabama Power and Southern Company. He served as general manager of clean air compliance, construction services and environmental program strategic planning. Huggins earned a bachelor of mechanical engineering degree from the University of Alabama, and is a registered, licensed professional engineer.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission is still trying to determine if the utility knew about a $366 million cost overrun that was revealed a couple weeks after regulators re-affirmed the project’s certificate of public convenience and necessity. Southern District commissioner Leonard Bentz told the Mississippi Business Journal in late May that the PSC had pursued information related to the overrun for the better part of a year, before learning that it had been withheld under former president Ed Day’s direction. Day resigned last month. Bentz said his office would continue to investigate the matter.

The plant, whose total cost has risen above $4 billion, is scheduled to start commercial operation in May 2014.

MSU students win start-up business competition

June 4th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi State students have again won the Mississippi New Venture Challenge Competition.

John L. Gazzini, of Birmingham, and Olive Branch’s Read T. Sprabery took first place, with Nimbus Mobile, an app design business. Nimbus is close to launching FeatherServe, which allows pool service companies to more easily and efficiently manage their operations.

Gazzine and Sprabery both graduated from MSU in May with computer engineering degrees.

Second-place went to Sensei Mobile, LLC, founded by Matthew M. Hoelter of Collierville, Tenn., another MSU spring computer engineering graduate. He is launching a service called Chat Katana that provides an anonymous one-on-one messaging service through a native phone application.

The annual competition is sponsored by Innovate Mississippi, a Ridgeland-based nonprofit organization that promotes statewide innovation and technology-based economic development.

“It’s gratifying to see our students continue a tradition of excellence,” said Abby Thompson, entrepreneurship program coordinator in MSU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer, in a school press release.

For the past three years, Mississippi State students have won eight out of nine places in the competition Overall, MSU had 11 teams compete in this year’s New Venture Challenge.

“We have taken purposeful steps to make innovation and entrepreneurship priorities. We have been building that ecosystem steadily with students, faculty and staff,” said Gerald Nelson, director, OETT.

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Nissan sets May sales record, Toyota’s jump slightly

June 3rd, 2013 No comments

Nissan North America set a sales record in May, with 114,457 deliveries.

That’s a 24.7 percent increase over May 2012. The global Nissan division also set a record, with 106,558 deliveries, up 31.2 percent over last year.

In North America, sales of the Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra and Rogue led the charge. The Altima and Sentra are made in Nissan’s Canton facility, which marked 10 years of production last month.

Altima sales totaled 31,940 for the month, a 40.8 percent jump from May 2012. Sentra sales (12,504 units) were up 64.5 percent.

“We are in the midst of launching five all-new, top-selling Nissan models in 15 months, and the effort is paying off,” Jose Munoz, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Nissan Americas, said in a company press release. “Altima, Pathfinder and Sentra, the first three of these launches, are up a combined 64.6 percent in May, which shows that our new products are hitting the sweet spot of delivering the innovation, style and value that buyers want.”

The Canton facility, using $100 million in bonds issued by the Madison County Economic Development Authority, is expanding its supplier park. Leases of the new buildings would pay the debt service. Lawmakers approved the bond package last legislative session.

Also on Monday, Toyota announced that its May sales were up 2.5 percent, with deliveries totaling 207,952.

“New vehicle sales are heating up along with the weather, and solid May results coupled with an excellent Memorial Day weekend provide great momentum as we move into the summer selling season,” said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division.

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Young app developer awarded Apple scholarship, trip to developer conference

May 29th, 2013 No comments
Charlie Hutchison

Charley Hutchison

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School middle schooler Charley Hutchison had planned to buy one of 5,000 available tickets to the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, which starts June 10.

Charley, who last year became one of the youngest app developers in Apple history, didn’t secure a ticket. They were gone in fewer than five minutes.

Turns out he won’t need one.

Charley’s mother, Melissa, said he received an email earlier this week notifying him that he had won one of 150 scholarships Apple gives to student developers across the world. That guarantees his attendance at the conference in San Francisco.

“We thought it was a shot in the dark,” Hutchison said in an interview Wednesday morning. “We were really surprised, because we told him it would be a good experience but we didn’t really expect him to get it. So now we have a week and a half to get plane tickets to San Francisco.”

About 50 of Charley’s fellow winners formed a Facebook group, and are planning a picnic in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge before the conference starts. “And that’s really going to be good for him, to be around kids from all over the world who are interested in the same things he is,” Hutchison said.

The WWDC gives developers an up-close experience with Apple’s latest operating systems, and offers hands-on training from Apple engineers. The conference runs from June 10-14 at San Francisco’s Moscone West convention center.

Pickering: Nissan has met obligations to state

May 28th, 2013 No comments

State auditor Stacey Pickering disputed Tuesday a union-funded study that said Nissan had not met its obligations to Mississippi.

Washington, D.C.-based Good Jobs First recently released the results of a study, paid for by the United Auto Workers, that said Nissan had violated the terms attached to its state incentives by denying workers the right to decide to unionize and by hiring large numbers of temporary workers. The study also claimed that Nissan’s incentives surpassed $1.3 billion, more than three times the reported figure when the plant opened in2003. Nissan and the Mississippi Development Authority disputed the study’s findings.

Pickering, in a column published Sunday in the Clarion-Ledger, said the state auditor’s office has verified Nissan’s job-count figures since the Canton plant opened, and found that they met and in most cases exceeded the threshold attached to the incentives.

“According to the law and the Memorandum of Understandings between Nissan and the state of Mississippi, Nissan was required to maintain 3,000 new direct jobs at the project site until 2021,” Pickering wrote. “As of our last audit in December, 2011, Nissan employed over 4,100 employees, far exceeding the mandated requirements.”

Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, a group of clergy and elected officials, has led the efforts to unionize Canton workers. The organization claims Nissan has threatened to fire workers for doing so, which would violate federal labor laws. Nissan has repeatedly denied the accusations.

The Nissan facility was created under the Mississippi Major Economic Impact Act, the statute that allows oversight from the state auditor’s office. Pickering unsuccessfully pushed for legislation the last session that would have extended auditor oversight to all state-assisted economic development initiatives.

The legislation failed. Pickering told the Mississippi Business Journal in April he plans to push the legislation again in 2014.

MSU professor develops national land use index

May 22nd, 2013 No comments

A Mississippi State professor of sociology is leading an online project that will serve as one-stop shopping for those searching for land development options across the U.S.

The Land Developability Index is now online at www.landdevelopability.org. It provides researchers, elected officials and developers an index that will help them identify land available for conversion and/or development. It allows anyone concerned about land use to determine what percentage could be developed at county and state levels. The research that led to the website was done by MSU’s Social Science Research Center and the College of Arts and Sciences’ department of sociology.

Guangqing Chi, the MSU professor spearheading the project, said it was initially designed for researchers, but could benefit transportations planners, community developers and forestry and natural resource officials.

“The unique thing about this index is that it is just one number representing the overall characteristics and status of land use and development,” Chi said in a school news release. “For people who are interested in land use and development, they can just go online and use it. There are other projects that share a similar methodology, but they are for different purposes.”

Chi and his team, which includes professors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota and other MSU professors, generated the land maps using spatial overlay methods to identify undeveloped lands. Examples include wetlands, steep slopes, surface water, built-up lands and Native American reservations to go with state- or federal-owned land. The index is compatible with Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software.

“It takes lots of effort to get all those components together in one data set, one platform,” Chi said. “Users may skip these intermediate steps and simply use the final product of the Land Developability Index.”

The index has been in the works for a decade. During his doctoral studies, Chi developed a similar index for Wisconsin to help that state improve its population forecasting.

Chi’s next step is to refine his latest index into categories separated by metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, municipalities, census tracts, block groups and ZIP codes. His overall goal is to produce an index that covers the planet. That will require additional funding from external sources, Chi said.

Hosemann seeks input to reform state’s business laws

May 21st, 2013 No comments

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann wants your input on how to reform Mississippi’s business laws.

The past few years, Hosemann has assembled study groups populated by representatives from almost every industry that does business in Mississippi to kick around ideas. Work done by the groups has led to the passage of legislation like the SMART Business Act, which passed last session and offers a 25 percent rebate for Mississippi companies that contract with state colleges and universities for research.

Past sessions have also included reform to Mississippi’s statutes regarding LLCs, securities, copper theft and corporate trademarks. In all, more than 90 percent of the legislation Hosemann backed has passed.

Hosemann has already put together his business study groups that will work in advance of the 2014 session that starts in January. The groups started meeting this month.

Hosemann’s office has also set up a page on his official website to gather ideas. The digital surveys are designed to complement the work done by the business study groups. The page does not restrict the number or scope of ideas users can submit.

To fill out the form and offer feedback, click here.