Monthly Archives: February 2010

Person of the Week: Angela Cain

Angela Cain, current CEO of the Mississippi Association of Realtors, will be leaving Mississippi in April to become CEO of CoreNet Global, the world’s leading organization for corporate real estate executives and economic developers.

It has been my pleasure to work with Angela on several projects over the past few years.  She is a true professional.  It is a great career move for her.  She will be a real asset to Corenet Global.  I wish her well.

CoreNet Global press release

Mississippi Association of Realtors press release

Suspicious of academics who study rural America

Kelley Snowden, writing in an article entitled Speak Your Piece: Ph.D.s Do the J.O.B. in the online Daily Yonder, is suspicious of academics who study rural America.  Snowden states:

From what I have observed, there is a palpable disconnect between academia and the “real world,” including rural America. Partly to blame is our system of higher education and what we have traditionally valued in academia (we are “doctors of philosophy” not technicians or engineers, and certainly not farmers). Part of it is, yes, our system of tenure, which forces many into a frenzy to publish or perish. This pushes many academics to jump from topic to topic, going with whatever is trendy at the time so they can say they made a “contribution,” the whole time making their vitas longer and heavier but producing very little of use to those of us on the ground.

The article is insightful because of the national conversation growing louder about urban vs. rural issues.  Recommended reading.

P.S.  The Daily Yonder also has an enlightening piece about Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin, who recently passed away.

A different business model – TOMS Shoes: You buy a pair; he gives away a pair.

TOMS Shoes gives away a pair of shoes when a customer buys a pair of shoes.  Is this any way to run a business?  Considering that the giveaway is to a child in need and that the company is growing by leaps and bounds, the answer would certainly be a big Yes.  TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie was at Mississippi State to share his story Monday night. Click here to read about his visit and click here to read the TOMS story on its Web site.

When you competitor is your regulator

Imagine owning a grocery store, and your competitor determines what products you can sell.  Or that you’re a banker, and the owner of a competing bank tells you what hours you stay open.  Or  that you own an automobile dealership, and your competitor requires a certain brand of tires be on all the vehicles you sell.  Sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it?  And of course, it is.

Nevertheless, Toyota’s issues, which are huge, are PERCEIVED in some corners as being inflated because the government has an ownership interest in a competing auto manufacturer.  This is just one problem caused by the government getting in the business of owning companies that compete in the marketplace.  Especially when the government is an owner of U.S. company and the competitor is a foreign company.  Thrown in a comment by a representative of the competitor/regulator that your vehicles should not even be used (“Stop driving…”) (later retracted) and questions start being asked.   The first one is obvious: “Is this a conflict of interest?”

Tomorrow, February 23, the CEO of Toyota is scheduled to appear before a congressional committee.  It will not be pretty.  Neither will the aftermath, because one of the questions that will be raised is whether the government/competitor is singling out a competitor.  I’m not defending Toyota here, nor am I accusing the government.  Just pointing out that one of the dangers of government ownership of private business is fairness with competitors.

The healthiest counties in Mississippi – and in the U.S.

The County Health Rankings—the first set of reports to rank the overall health of every county in all 50 states—were released today(Feb 17, 2010) by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at a briefing in Washington, D.C and on www.countyhealthrankings.org. The 50 state reports help public health and community leaders, policy-makers, consumers and others to see how healthy their county is, compare it with others within their state and find ways to improve the health of their community.

The healthiest counties in Mississippi are:

1.  DeSoto
2.  Rankin
3.  Lamar
4.  Lafayette
5.  Oktibbeha

The unhealthiest county in Mississippi is Holmes County.  Click here for the complete Mississippi Healthy Counties info.

BroadbandMatch: sort of a dating service to apply for Recovery Act $$

This is a new online tool that matches people, agencies and organizations who want to apply together for federal grants for high-speed Internet projects.  Below is some info from the Web site.

WHAT: BroadbandMatch is an online service to help applicants for Recovery Act broadband grants find potential partners with whom to apply. Infrastructure providers find content providers! Large-scale institutions find small-scale community organizations! Practitioners find researchers!
WHY: A stronger, more creative applicant pool brings us closer to the President’s goal of broadband for all Americans. This tool helps those with complementary skills and resources collaborate to create stronger applications together than they could working alone.

HOW: Fill out and post an applicant profile and then search for partners.

WHO: Brought to you by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service in support of the Obama Administration’s Open Government Initiative.

America’s Greatest President

The designation of “America’s Greatest President” is subjective to be sure.  The public and historians often disagree when it comes to the subject of the Greatest American President.  The wikipedia entry on this subject is rather thorough.  Generally, the following five presidents are in the Top Five of most polls:

George Washington
Abraham Lincoln
 Franklin D. Roosevelt
Thomas Jefferson and
Theodore Roosevelt

Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy tend to score highly in popular opinion polls.

Tough years ahead for commercial real estate – and community banks

(Feb 12, 2010) The Congressional Oversight Panel released its February report yesterday and it is grim.  The title of the report says it all – “Commercial Real Estate Losses and the Threat to Financial Stability.”  The problem is that there is over $1.4 trillion in loans coming due within the next four years.  Over half of those loans are “underwater.”  Refinancing will not be available for those loans or many loans for properties that are currently profitable.  And get this:  “Community banks, unlike the largest Wall Street banks, face the greatest risk for insolvency due to mounting commercial real estate loan losses.”

Some other quips from yesterday’s news release:

According to federal guidelines, 2,988 banks nationwide are classified as having a “CRE Concentration.” None of these banks are among the 19 largest bank holding companies.

The Panel found that “a significant wave of commercial mortgage defaults would trigger economic damage that could touch the lives of nearly every American.” When commercial properties fail, it creates a downward spiral of economic contraction: job losses; deteriorating store fronts, office buildings and apartments; and the failure of the banks serving those communities. Because community banks play a critical role in financing the small businesses that could help the American economy create new jobs, their widespread failure could disrupt local communities, undermine the economic recovery and extend an already painful recession.

Planning the Future of Oktibbeha County

Mississippi State University, the City of Starkville, Oktibbeha County and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership have come together to plan the future of the area.

Click here for the story.

Toyota dealers picked a fight with one who buys ink by the barrel

“Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel,” is a well-used quote that has been attributed to Mark Twain, Ben Franklin, William Jefferson Clinton, and others.  Regardless of its provenance, I have a feeling that Toyota, or at least 173 of its dealers, is going to wish it had heeded that advice.

I say that because Brian Ross, chief investigative correspondent for ABC News and a reporter who has been pushing this story for a relatively long time, revealed this morning that 173 Southeastern Toyota dealers had pulled their ads from local ABC affiliates and shifted the money to other stations, as reported in the New York Times.  Those dealers and Toyota might want to consider the hundreds of comments on Brian Ross’ blog. Now the story is about Toyota and its dealers attempting to punish a news organization for attempting to expose something.  They merely added fuel to the fire.  And the public is not siding with Toyota.  The dealers are caught in the middle.

Having said that, I can understand how they feel.  How would you like it if a news organization was doing negative reporting about your company and trying to sell advertising to you at the same time?  Nevertheless, the news organization has a whole lot more “ink,” so the protest will probably backfire. No, it is backfiring (pun intended).

Look for the next story to be about Toyota’s political contributions.(UPDATED)