Author Archives: philhardwick

Raising the Minimum Wage in Mississippi: An Econometric Model

March 31, 2014

An Economic Brief from the University Research Center at the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning entitled “Raising the minimum wage in Mississippi: An econometric model” is well worth reading.

Here’s the Executive Summary:

Recently, President Obama called for an increase in the Federal minimum wage. Congress had also responded by introducing the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (S. 460). That legislation if enacted will increase the minimum wage in three steps, from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. The rate will then be indexed to inflate on each year thereafter. In addition, the legislation will increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from today’s $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. Several other US Senate and House bills including S. 1737, H.R. 1010 and 3746, have also been introduced to increase the minimum wage. None have been enacted to date. The President also issued an Executive Order raising the minimum wage for Federal Contractors to $10.10. Using the Regional Economic Models, Inc. Mississippi model PI+ V1.5.3, it is estimated that initially 1,766 jobs will be lost in the fi rst year, rising to 9,139 by 2028 then beginning a slow increase in jobs over the next 30 years, absent any other economic change in the economy.



March 27, 2014

Seven Jackson, Mississippi mayoral hopefuls appeared at a Leadership Jackson Alumni Association-sponsored forum today at the Mississippi Public Broadcasting auditorium. The forum was moderated by Reverend Edward OConnor, Dean of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.

The format was a follows: Opening statement, respond to four questions asked individually by panelists and then a closing statement. Because of the number of candidates and the relatively short time – one hour – each response lasted from 30 – 60 seconds. Below are my notes from the forum. Comments to this post are welcome and invited, Every effort was made to present an accurate synopsis. Corrections or comments from others in attendance are welcomed, however, please note that they will be reviewed before posting.



Margaret Barrett-Simon – Stressed that she had been in office 29 years.

John Hohrn – Been involved in worker rights and politics for a long time; running because he loves Jackson and wants to move forward.

Harvey Johnson – Spent entire working life as a public servant.

Chokwe A. Lumumba – Best person to carry on his father’s vision.

Melvin Priester – I recognize no real progress unless we work together.

Regina Quinn – Move Jackson forward.

Tony Yarber – Three children and wife; we’re everyday people.


QUESTION 1: What specific, policies, actions, tools do you propose?

Margaret Barrett-Simon – Must address crime situation; must get neighborhood associations involved; touted programs and initiatives.

John Hohrn – When he got in Senate he focused on economic development; chaired the committee; negotiated with Nissan, casinos, etc.; talked just today with some businesses that want to locate in Jackson. “I put together deals.” Will leverage.

Harvey Johnson – When I was in office we stablished “Jobs for Jacksonians program; will continue it; Grants, not just loans, to small businesses; touted his programs and initiatives.

Chokwe A. Lumumba – “We” got the one percent tax; require 60 percent of labor force on projects be Jacksonians; 50 percent be minorities and women; encourage cooperative model of business ownership.

Melvin Priester – Reshapre departments; use public workers instead of outsourcing; open up the bid process to encourage economic development; training; take bid process to public; change permitting process to make more business friendly.

Regina Quinn – Make sure small businesses stay with infrastructure projects on which they win bids and “not get looped out” once project starts;

Tony Yarber – Small businesses have opportunities for City contracts; mayor needs to be connector between City and schools.


QUESTIONS 2: What will you do to increase transparency of mayoral appointees, especially school board appointees?

Margaret Barrett-Simon – Our schools are failing our children. We need to have a dialogue about school board appointees; what we have now is not working.

John Hohrn – Schools are failing. Must have accountability of all appointees. Should be legislation to remove school board members if they are not performing. Mayor must share vision for school board, etc.

Harvey Johnson – Got legislation to have seven school board members instead of five so that all of city was represented; included groups to help me set a profile; open to an improved method for selecting school board members.

Chokwe A. Lumumba – School board should be elected.

Melvin Priester – Disagree that school board is the problem with schools; I’ll be more hands-on.

Regina Quinn – Board needs to understand the vision of the mayor; we should find out what’s working and replicate it.

Tony Yarber – Selection process is flawed; set up vetting process for appointees; brought in outside group to educate Council; in favor of elected school board.

QUESTION 3: How will you transform the perceived image of Jackson, both inside and outside of the city?

Margaret Barrett-Simon – Majority of City employees do a beautiful job; “We can no longer let others define who we are.”

John Hohrn – Need to increase pay for City employees; Often, our workers are without direction.

Harvey Johnson – Customer-centered training; we trained 400, but City has 2,200 employees; we have to believe in ourselves – and we don’t.

Chokwe A. Lumumba – We need to increase pay for City employees.

Melvin Priester – Put Hinds County Tax Collector Eddie Fair in charge of training so we can have customer service like in his office; ask young people of city what they suggest.

Regina Quinn – Training – training – training; evaluate the supervisors as well as the employees.

Tony Yarber – We need to market the city. Our hospitality will be the best, and hospitality they will not forget.


QUESTION 4: What can we do to move Jackson forward? How will you as Mayor lead us?

Margaret Barrett-Simon – Appoint good people in City departments and leave them alone; bring all people to the table.

John Hohrn – It’s about relationships and consensus; I’ve been successful in legislature; I know all parts of city.

Harvey Johnson – Citizens have to think positively about the city; need to reintroduce FABRIC – For A Better Revitalized Inclusive Community.

Chokwe A. Lumumba – We need to invite people to be a part of the process; Mayor Lumumba was a disciplined listener.

Melvin Priester – What is going to save Jackson is Jacksonians; will support Jacksonians when the City needs to get out of the way.

Regina Quinn – Gave two examples of working with City – One-percent ales tax initiative and Memorial Stadium to JSU.

Tony Yarber – Take risks; call everybody to the table.



Margaret Barrett-Simon – For 29 years I’ve served; I’ve learned; I can work with all people.

John Hohrn – My experience will allow me to serve city well.

Harvey Johnson – Spent the past four decades improving cities; want to continue; build on the foundation.

Chokwe A. Lumumba – Involve the people in the process.

Melvin Priester – You can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s tools.

Regina Quinn – I have what it takes to lead the City. No new taxes.

Tony Yarber – Jackson has the opportunity to be the Mecca of the South.


What Business Expects From Schools – Notes from a panel discussion

“What Business Expects of (the local school district) and What Businesses Can Do to Assist (the local school district) in Reaching Those Goals” was the subject of a panel discussion sponsored by the Jackson Public Schools Partners in Education. The panelists included representatives of a medical center, an engineering firm, a life insurance company, an employment agency and an economic developer. Below is a summary of their comments.

- Students need to know how to communicate. That includes speech, dress and nonverbal language. If they cannot communicate well they cannot represent their employer well.

- Students needs to know about time management. For example, a student who spends more time studying for the first test they are taking instead of the more important test they are to take indicates that the student needs to manage time better.

- Independent learning is something that workers will do for the rest of their lives, so students need to understand how to learn on their own as well as with a group.

- Large businesses need all types of skills. Students should no shy away from applying with a company just because they do not have the skills for the company’s main focus. Large companies need accounting, marketing and human resource personnel even though the company may be in a very technical business.

- Social media matters. Students should know that their social media pages, images and comments will follow them for a lifetime and will be used in consideration of employment.

- Employers are concerned that students do not have basic math skills.

- Drug tests are routinely given by many employers at the time of application and randomly during employment.

The panelists pointed out that schools should not be hesitant about asking for business support, but that schools should have specific requests and proposals in mind. Panelists gave a summary of how their companies and organizations interacted with their school partners.

l-r Mark Bailey – Neel-Schaffer Engineering, Stephanie Hopkins Southern Farm Bureau Life, Phil Hardwick – Stennis Institute, Natalie Gaughf – University Mississippi Medical Center, Carolyn Boteler – Tempstaff.

Tourism spending in the Deep South

February 17, 2014

A recent Natchez Democrat article entitled “State officials lobbying for more tourism funds,” by Lindsey Shelton, got my attention because a graphic at the beginning of the story listed tourism spending by several states. Wondering what the per capita spending might be for those states I took the numbers in the article and divided them by the 2010 population numbers. Here are the results:

Population 18,801,310
Tourism Spending $65 million
Tourism Spending per capita $3.48

Population 6,346,105
Tourism Spending $29 million
Tourism Spending per capita $4.57

Population 4,779,736
Tourism Spending $18 million
Tourism Spending per capita $3.77

Population 2,967,297
Tourism Spending $6 million
Tourism Spending per capita $2.02

Hankins, Hipp and Kelly Bestowed With MEDC Honorary Life Memberships

Three longtime  economic development practitioners received Honorary Life Membership in the Mississippi Economic Development Council (MEDC) at the organization’s recent winter conference.

Bill Hankins of Jackson, Mississippi served as the first director of the Deposit Guaranty National Bank Industrial Development Division. He currently works at Cook Commercials Properties as one of the largest commercial and industrial real estate brokers.

Max Hipp of Oxford, Mississippi retired recently after serving 24 years as President and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber and EDF. He began his career with the (now) Mississippi Development Authority in 1981. He held several leadership positions in MEDC.

Steve Kelly, Jackson, Mississippi retired in January as Community Development Manager at Entergy, where he developed and implemented the TeamCity and program and the Economic Training Program. He is also a Past-President of MEDC.


Valerie Wilson wins Heidel Award

Congratulations to Valerie Wilson, Executive Director of the Petal, Mississippi Chamber of Commerce, on winning the annual Jimmy and Ray Heidel Economic Development Leadership Award at the 2014 Mississippi Economic Development Council (MEDC) Winter Conference.

The award is presented annually to a recipient who meets the following selected criteria:

Member of MEDC;
Employed as a business development worker within Mississippi;
Participant in True South Economic Development Course at USM; and
Exhibits fully developed leadership skills or potential therefor.

The purpose of the award is to foster further development of promising economic development practitioner leadership skills. The award includes tuition for the first year of either the Economic Development Institute or the Community Development Institute.

10 Things I Learned While Writing The Mississippi Mysteries Series

Over the past few years I wrote 10 short novels set in Mississippi in Mississippi towns.  Here are 10 things I learned about Mississippi while writing the series:

1.  there are white squirrels in Columbia that were imported by a former mayor;

2.  acetaminophen can be used as a poison;

3.  during World War II the Town of Flora tripled in size because of a gunpowder plant;

4.  there are haunted houses in many towns;

5.  there is a library in a former jailhouse in Macon;

6.  there is a cemetery monument of an angel crying over the loss of a local citizen in Columbus;

7.  when the Mississippi State (new) Capitol was dedicated there was a contingent of Confederate war veterans in the parade;

8.  the Church of God in Christ was begun in Lexington;

9.  that Holiday Inn University was located in Olive Branch; and

10. the Dizzy Dean Baseball World Series is held in Southaven.


The Disconnect Between Economic Developers and Community Developers

In some communities it seems that economic developers and community developers are as different as night and day. That is no wonder given the roles that each are expected to play. But in some communities and at the state level these roles are becoming more blended as communities recognize the advantages of these groups working together.

Generally, economic developers, because of their emphasis on jobs and economy, tend to be around business leaders and organizations that are concerned with private sector employment. Community developers, because of their emphasis on serving the needs of low and moderate income persons, tend to be around social service providers and others with similar concerns. In many cases, the political philosophies of the two are far apart. And in many cases, the two groups are not in constant contact with each other about their communities’ future. As some would say, they are just cut from a different cloth. That is not the case at the state level.

The Mississippi Development Authority, formerly known as the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, has for many years placed both functions under the same umbrella. It is responsible not only for economic development, but community development as well. The result is a more cohesive and coordinated approach.

Local leaders may benefit by examining whether there is a disconnect between economic development and community development in their communities, and then finding the right combination for them. There is not a perfect model, but when the two entities do not work together the outcome is less than desirable.

Five Elements of Effective Slogans or Tags and Three Pitfalls to Avoid

What’s your favorite slogan?  What’s the most effective slogan, motto or tagline you’ve ever heard?

Some that come to mind are “Just do it,” “Can you hear me now?” and “Plop, plop, fizz,fizz.”  That last one probably reveals my age range.  :) So what makes an effect slogan or tagline?  We consulted with Rich Winter, Creative Director at Marketing Alliance, an economic development marketing firm, and he offered some useful advice.  Here ’tis:

5 Elements of Effective Slogans or Tags and 3 Pitfalls to Avoid

1.    Memorable – Can your tag be recalled from memory? Use relevant, provocative images and copy to reinforce your slogan. Use of jingles, puns, and rhymes are good ways of making the line unforgetable.

2.    Key Benefit – Sell the benefits, not the features. The benefit should be believable and not just an overinflated claim.

3.    Differentiate the Brand – The slogan should depict a characteristic about the brand that sets it apart from the competition. Keep in mind the target audience. 

4.    Recall the Brand Name – If the brand name isn’t in the tagline, it should be strongly suggested through other visuals or text. Rhyming tags can be useful when incorporating a brand name in the tag.

5.    Call to Action – Does your tag move the reader to do something? Does it impart positive feelings about the brand?


1.    Trendy Tags – Slogans and tags should stand the test of time. Avoid using time sensitive references in a slogan you expect to use long term. Catchy taglines try to be trendy without much success. A new trend is the one-word line (“Driven”) or using 3 terse ideas separated by a period (“Check. Create. Inspire”). Also avoid buzzwords in your tag line.

2.    Tags that Could be Used by a Competitor – Don’t use tags that offer no competitive differentiation, such as “Simply the Best”. These tags can be hijacked by any other competitor. If a competitor’s name can be easily substituted for your brand in a slogan, the slogan might need work. 

3.    Claims – Avoid using tags that make claims that can’t be substantiated or measured.

Avoid this common mistake in your email marketing strategy.

I just received an email from a local marketing company on whose mailing list I subscribed to. The company has a creative CEO and is gaining business in the community. The email messages always seem to have something useful. They are also well-designed, obviously using an HTML template of some kind.

Unfortunately, there is a big problem in the message part of the email. The problem is that when I click on the “Go to our website” phrase my browser opens to an error page that tells me that there is no such server as “your website address here.”

Now the real message that I am getting from the company is something like, “We have creative ideas, but we aren’t really good with the details.”

To avoid this problem with your email marketing strategy, send the first email to yourself, and go through it as if you were the intended recipient.  Click on all the links and read the message out loud. If after do those two things you are happy with it, then blast away to your list.