New automotive plant in Tunica?

October 6th, 2009 No comments

Updated at 3:15 p.m.: Here is the official GreenTech press release.

A start-up automotive company unveiled prototypes of the cars it one day hopes to build at a plant in Tunica.

Chinese businessman Charles Wang, CEO of GreenTech Automotive, said in a press release, according to the Associated Press, that he hopes to build 250,000 hybrid vehicles a year at the $6 billion plant on a 1,500 acre mega-site in Tunica County.

Employment at the plant, according to Wang, would hover around 4,500.

To this point, scarce few details have been made available from Wang, Gov. Haley Barbour’s office or the Mississippi Development Authority. An MDA representative reached by Magnolia Marketplace declined comment this morning, citing confidentiality agreements.

For details on this morning’s unveiling ceremony, click here.

Keenum: MSU “not prepared” for more cuts this fiscal year

October 5th, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace has been going to the monthly lunch meetings of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps for three months shy of two years, and today’s crowd to hear MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum was easily the biggest in that time.

Keenum seemed genuinely surprised at how many folks showed up. “I figured there would be a couple dozen people and one or two members of the press,” he said. Instead, the largest room in the University Club was filled. There were probably close to 100 people in attendance.

Keenum started his 37-minute speech with some good financial news. He said private donations in fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30, were up 20 percent compared with FY08. “And we’re running way ahead of this time last year,” Keenum said.

His discussion of the public funding front wasn’t nearly as positive.

The Institutions of Higher Learning, MSU included, took a 5 percent hit to its budget early last month when Gov. Haley Barbour had to trim $170 million from the FY10 budget because tax revenue in July and August fell short of expectations.

Higher education and K-12 education took the brunt of the cuts, because their budgets had been cut less than other departments during the several rounds of belt-tightening in FY09. Education overall has now been cut by 5 percent.

Keenum said he instructed his department heads at the beginning of this fiscal year to operate on the assumption that there would be a 5 percent cut before next July, when FY11 started. Three months into FY10, that became a reality.

“I’m not prepared for any other cuts,” Keenum said, “but I’ve been told that may become a reality (before the fiscal  year ends).”

IHL Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds was one of several state agency  heads who recently wrapped up their FY11 budget requests to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, in which all were told that the funding pool is already shallow and is almost guaranteed to continue to shrink.

Mississippi State’s enrollment is up 800 students over last year, which will make up about 40 percent of the shortfall left by the 5 percent in cuts, Keenum said. If cuts exceed 5 percent for the year, Keenum promised he would do “everything I can” to minimize the impact on MSU employees but did not rule out layoffs as a cost-cutting measure.

He also said he would not be in favor of implementing a hiring freeze. “We’re not going to let the quality of our product deteriorate. There’s not another state in the nation as dependent on higher education as Mississippi.”

Categories: Colleges and universities, News Tags:

Keenum to address Stennis crowd today

October 5th, 2009 No comments

Mississippi State University President Dr. Mark Keenum is the keynote speaker today at the monthly meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps. The noon meeting will be held at the University Club in Jackson, and the place is sure to be packed.

With state revenues continuing to fall short of estimates, budgets across the board will most likely be cut once Gov. Haley Barbour returns from an economic development trip to Asia. It’s a pretty safe bet Keenum will touch on that to some degree today.

And as usual, Magnolia Marketplace will have the ins, outs and what-have-yous as soon as possible.

Categories: Colleges and universities, News Tags:

State revenues down 10 percent in September

October 1st, 2009 No comments

State Economist Dr. Phil Pepper told the Joint Legislative Budget Committee a week ago today that the long-term revenue outlook for the state was not very good.

The short-term forecast looks positively dreadful.

September tax collection numbers surfaced today, and they aren’t pretty. Overall, the state brought in $404.9 million last month, 10 percent under revenue estimates officials made only three months ago. The total shortfall for the month was just short of $45 million.

August offered a sliver of hope that the trend of monthly revenue shortages could be coming to an end. Gov. Haley Barbour said then the Cash for Clunkers program probably had a lot to do with August revenue falling only about 2 percent short of estimates.

September’s sales tax figures were $13.6 million, or almost 9 percent, under estimates, bolstering Barbour’s argument that Cash for Clunkers artificially inflated August sales tax collections. Individual income tax collections in September were almost 14 percent, or $22.7 million, short of what the Revenue Estimating Group, of which Pepper is a member, thought they would be.

Barbour has already made cuts to the fiscal year 2010 budget, slashing $172 million from K-12 education spending on Sept. 3. Barbour, who is in the middle of a two and a half week economic development trip to Asia, has said since then that more cuts are almost a guarantee. For the first quarter of FY10, revenue is already $77 million (more than 7.5 percent) shy of expectations. Judging from September’s revenue, trimming the budget will be at the top of Barbour’s to-do list when he returns home.

Categories: Haley Barbour, News, Politics Tags:

Feathers already flying in third round of tanker bidding

September 30th, 2009 No comments

The third competition between Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing to land a $35 billion contract to replace the Air Force’s ancient fleet of refueling tankers officially began last Friday. Tuesday, the first serious allegation surfaced.

A Northrop Grumman executive accused the Pentagon of sharing his company’s pricing information from the second bid — which Northrop Grumman won but was overturned after a Boeing protest — with Boeing, without returning the favor in the other direction. The first bid, won by Boeing, was thrown out after a corruption scandal blew up and sent a Boeing executive and an Air Force official to prison.

Clearly, with this much money on the line — the overall impact of the contract to the area that lands it could exceed $100 billion — both companies have their chin straps buckled extra tight.

It goes without saying (actually, Magnolia Marketplace said it recently) that the Mississippi Gulf Coast would reap untold impact cash and supplier jobs if Northrop Grumman wins the bid and ends up building the planes in Mobile.

Tuesday’s development probably is the first of many accusations and allegations Boeing and Northrop Grumman will hurl at each other before this thing is over. Stay tuned.

Floor mats force recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles

September 29th, 2009 1 comment

In response to a recent accident in California that involved fatalities, Toyota is issuing a recall of 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles because the company says the floor mats can interfere with the accelerators.

Included in the recall is the 2005-2010 Prius Hybrid. The Prius is scheduled for production in Blue Springs, though a starting date has not been set.

The 3.8 million vehicles is the largest U.S. recall the company has ever issued. Magnolia Marketplace ran a Google search and was able to come up with only one link, which is here.

UPDATED AT 3:40 p.m. : Details of the accident responsible for the recall can be found here.

Categories: News, Toyota Tags:

PSC hears from Mississippi Power, and a golf course opens

September 29th, 2009 No comments

Is there anything better than the first sign of autumn? Yesterday evening just before sunset, as I made the final approach to the barn on the Official Horse of Magnolia Marketplace, the temperature had settled into the 60s and brought a welcome contrast to the broiler of the past few months. Swell. Just swell.

Anyway, there are a few items to pass along.

I’ve been meaning to post this since Friday, but it has somehow escaped the to-do list. Lake Caroline Golf Club, which is reopening after lying dormant for two  years, rolls out the welcome mat tomorrow. Randy Watkins bought the place and has been refurbishing the course and clubhouse the past few months. Kyle Sisk, Caroline’s director of golf and an Official Friend of Magnolia Marketplace, has worn just about every hat imaginable as he oversees the day-to-day operations, refereeing subcontractors and groundskeepers, coordinating a marketing campaign and squeezing in a few hours’ sleep.

The course looks ready. After a sneak preview  Saturday, Magnolia Marketplace is proud to report the clubhouse is ready and the LCD televisions on the wall project college football games beautifully. Well done, Messrs. Watkins and Sisk.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission and Mississippi Power Co. will tee it up next week. The Commission will hold Phase I hearings on the company’s petition to seek a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for its Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle plant in Kemper County.

The IGCC plant, says the company, would capture 65 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and employ lignite to power the process. Mississippi Power estimates the $2.2 billion project would generate 260 jobs once it came online. Ideally, the company would like to begin construction next year and begin operations at the plant in 2014. That might be a tad optimistic, because several environmental groups, including the Mississippi chapter of the Sierra Club, oppose the plant and would probably challenge it in court.

The hearings run Monday through Thursday next week in the PSC’s courtroom on the first floor of the Woolfolk Building.

Hosemann holding Stanford hearing

September 28th, 2009 No comments

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann will hold a hearing next Monday at the Capitol in which alleged victims of Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme will testify before Hosemann, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who is the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, and Dave Massey, the president-elect of the National Association of Securities Administrators.

The hearing is in room 113 of the Capitol and is scheduled to last from 1-2:30 p.m.

A press release from Hosemann’s office didn’t mention any details other than the victims’ testimony. Stanford has been in jail since he was indicted and denied bond on 21 charges, including fraud, as part of the Madoff-style financial funny business the federal government says bilked investors out of a total of $7 billion.

Stanford’s alleged victims probably smiled a little bit when news broke over the weekend that his time in the clink isn’t going well.

Categories: Allen Stanford, News Tags:

Janus resigns from House

September 28th, 2009 No comments

Rep. Michael Janus, R-Biloxi, has resigned from the Mississippi House to start his new job as city manager of D’Iberville.

State law prohibited Janus from serving in the Legislature and as D’Iberville’s city manager at the same time, so his resignation took effect this morning at 7:59, one minute before he started his new job.

Janus had served as the representative of District 117 in Harrison County since 1996. His committee memberships included insurance, ways and means, ports, harbors and airports, management, public health and human services and public utilities. Janus told a Gulf Coast television station that one of his first official acts as city manger will be to attend a ribbon cutting for the opening of a retail center. Janus has an economic development. He was a mortgage broker when he wasn’t at the Capitol.

In a letter to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Janus said he was “returning home to Biloxi and the Gulf Coast, in a very real sense Mississippi is also my home and I shall always stand ready to serve should the time or need arise.”

Gov. Haley Barbour will set a special election to fill the open seat.

Categories: News, Politics Tags:

Economist: State fiscal outlook dire

September 24th, 2009 No comments

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee concluded its budget hearings this afternoon with a 1.99 percent increase in funds from the Mississippi Insurance Department and a plea for new software from the Mississippi State Tax Commission.

Commissioner of Revenue J. Ed Morgan told lawmakers that the corporate tax collections component of the 35-year-old software the MSTC uses has crashed and the sales tax collections component is dying.

“The prognosis of our patient is bleak,” Morgan said.

The Legislature promised funding for the $30 million software during the last legislative session, but the money wasn’t there when the FY10 budget was finalized.

House Speaker Billy McCoy,D-Rienzi, told Morgan the state would find a way next session.

“We will give you the ways and means this year,” McCoy said. “You’ve convinced us thoroughly.”

The dire straits of the MSTC presentation carried into the overall revenue forecast state economist Dr. Phil Pepper gave to end the four days’ worth of hearings.

“We’ve lost 50,000 jobs in Mississippi the last year and a half,” Pepper said. “We had more people employed in 1997 than we do now.”

Pepper said the economic outlook for calendar year 2010 is still one of negative growth for the state and the national economy.

Revenues for FY2010, which started July 1, are $31.7 million (about 5 percent) below the sine die estimate made in June. Year-to-date, revenue is off more than $40 million compared with 2008.

Pepper cautioned lawmakers that reports of economic indicators experiencing an uptick since May are false. Rather, he said, their rate of loss has slowed. As opposed to heading up, they are heading downward more slowly.

“Restructuring may be required in state and local government (to cut costs),” Pepper said. Pepper’s assessment comes just a few hours after IHL Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds told the JLBC that consolidation of some functions within the university system may be necessary to offset a loss of state funding.

The Revenue Estimating Group is scheduled to meet in October once September revenues are available. September marks a critical month for corporate tax collections. The REG will set a revenue estimate for FY11 in October, the JLBC will meet in November to review it and it will be released and adopted by the committee the first week of December.

Pepper’s presentation makes it likely the numbers then won’t be any prettier than they are now.

“We have hard times ahead,” he said.

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