Monthly Archives: July 2008

U.S. Senator vs. state senator

From a column by Alan Ehrenhalt:

A 21st-century U.S. senator is, virtually by the nature of the job, a gadfly. He flits from one issue to another, generally developing little expertise on any of them; devoting a large portion of his day to press conferences and other publicity opportunities; following a daily schedule printed on a 3×5 card that a member of his staff has prepared; depending even more heavily on staff for detailed and time-consuming legislative negotiation that he is too busy to attend; and developing few close relationships with his colleagues, nearly all of whom are as busy as he is…

By contrast, what does a state legislator do? At his worst, he is doggedly parochial, someone who tends first and foremost to the interests of a relatively small local constituency. At his best, he keeps all the state’s significant issues in mind, and it is possible to do that in a state legislature in a way that is not possible in Washington.

Read the entire column.

Phoenicia Gourmet Cuisine, Ocean Springs

Last week’s lunch at the Phoenicia Gourmet Cuisine, Ocean Springs was a most pleasant dining experience, featuring an appetizer of Hummus ( theirs is a blend of Chick Pea, Tahini, Lemon Juice & Garlic) and bread, a table by the front window and a delicious entree of mahi-mahi topped with a sauce that tasted – well, Mediterranean.  Speaking of Mediterranean, I was told that the Phoenicia was a Greek restaurant, and then I read reviews describing it as a Lebanese restaurant, a Middle Eastern restaurant and a Mediterranean restaurant.  It describes itself as featuring Mediterranean Cuisine.

Reviews on the Internet seem to be mixed, but from my experience I would rate it eight stars out of 10 for lunch.  I also couldn’t help but notice that there was a short wait for a table, the best indicator of what diners think about a restaurant. Locals told me that it’s also a great place for breakfast.

For a town its size, Ocean Springs has a surprising variety of unique restaurants.  Some say that many of the New Orleans chefs came this way after Hurricane Katrina and had a positive effect on local cuisine.  Click here for a listing of Ocean Springs restaurants.  There are many and they are varied.

Phoenicia Gourmet Cuisine
1223 Government St
Ocean Springs, Mississippi

My column on the housing bailout bill is not coming along because…

I can’t get past the first three words that come to mind –




Mississippi Gulf Coast “aerospace corridor” is taking off.

Economic developers from the Mississippi Gulf Coast attended what I think is one of the coolest air shows in the world –   the Farnborough International Air Show.  (Just for the record, I did not attend.)   Click here to read a Mississippi Press article about their trip.

The airshow, established in 1948 and held every other year, has become a popular spot for aircraft debuts, and it drew more than 1,000 exhibitors, 263,000 attendees and $42 billion in announced sales In 2006.

Caterpillar rebuilds Oxford, Mississippi plant

Caterpillar Inc. held a ceremony Saturday in Oxford to rededicate the hose coupling plant, which resumed limited production less than two weeks after the tornado. It is expected to resume full production by the end of the year.  Read more about it in this Forbes article.

Mississippi Senator Alan Nunnelee Tapped for National Committee

Mississippi Senator Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, has been appointed Vice Chairman of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) Health Committee.  North Carolina Speaker of the House and incoming NCSL President Joe Hackney recently announced the appointment.

“I am honored to represent the interests of state legislatures in the continuing debate over the changing state-federal relationship,” Nunnelee said.

The Health Committee is one of 11 standing committees of the National Conference of State Legislatures. The standing committees are responsible for developing policies that guide NCSL’s activities on Capitol Hill and within the administration. The policies stress three themes: opposition to unfunded federal mandates, prevention of unnecessary preemption of state laws and protection of state revenue sources.

“Senator Nunnelee brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to the table,” said Speaker Joe Hackney. “As a leader of this important committee, Senator Nunnelee will help determine NCSL policies relating to Medicare, Medicaid, health cost and access.”

Nunnelee is chairman of the state senate’s Appropriations Committee and serves as Vice Chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee as well as a number of other national committees addressing public health issues.

“I’m convinced that access to affordable quality health care is one of the most important issues facing our state and nation,” Nunnelee said. “I have spent most of my legislative career in these areas, and I am honored that Speaker Hackney has asked me to serve in this important leadership position. This leadership role will allow me to better serve the people of Mississippi.”

Nunnelee has served since 1995.

Create your own economic development success story

One of the best things that local economic developers, community leaders and public officials can do is visit another city that has a similar demographic and economic profile and learn about how the other city became successful.  One of the worst things these same people can do is attempt to replicate what the other city did to become successful.  Why?  Because even though cities may be alike, they are not identical.  Generally speaking, a city must find its own unique path to economic development success.  In other words, learn from others, but chart your own course based on your particular situation.

Having issued those words of caution, I now urge you to read the special Economic Development section of today’s Wall Street Journal in today’s (Monday, July 28, 2008) Wall Street Journal It features seven cities that “…took different approaches to economic development – and came out ahead.”

Chevron and Prime Outlets at Gulfport Win Governor’s Cup Awards

Congratulations to Chevron Products Company and Prime Outlets at Gulfport, winners of the Governor’s Cup 2007 Economic Excellence Award in the Big Business and Small Business categories, respectively.  The announcement was made Thursday evening at the Mississippi Economic Development Council Annual Awards Banquet in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Chevron Products Company, based in Pascagoula, once again became Jackson County’s largest taxpayer, totaling over $23.6 million.  Employment increased by 14 percent to 1,540 employees and payroll totaled $320 million.  In October 2007, the company announced plans to build a major gasoline production plant at the Pascagoula Refinery at a cost of $500 million.  Gasoline production is expected to increase by 600,000 gallons per day.  In 2007 he Pascagoula Refinery had its safest year ever and also announced a program with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to train students to work at the refinery, and to provide scholarships to 16 students.

Prime Outlets at Gulfport, located just south of I-10 at U.S. Highway 49, lost 85 percent of its roof to Hurricane Katrina.  By Thanksgiving after the storm, 40 of the 76 stores were reopened. Today, merchants and center management provide jobs to over 400 people, and payroll is in excess of $10 million annually.  Sales tax collections is over $4 million per year, with approximately $900,000 retained by the local community.  Property taxes provide over $200,000 to the local school district, the City of Gulfport and Harrison County.

About that image thing…

A state’s image is shaped by a glimpse out the window of someone driving through or a story in the national press.  This morning my Google News Alert had two links that really pointed that out.

One is a blog entitled THE EXPEDITIONARY MAN’S BIKE TOUR, an account of a family’s cross-country bike tour.  An excerpt from the Mississippi stage reads, “Terrific people in Tupelo.”  From the Alabama stage comes this:

“I was struck by three things on my first day riding in Alabama. First, of all of the states we’ve gone through, Alabama drivers seem to be the most impatient of bicyclists. It was interesting that literally as soon we crossed the state line, we began to have several drivers honk at us in irritation if they were delayed by even a few seconds. The honk was apparently their sign of disapproval of us being on the road. We had maybe 1-2 drivers do this in Oklahoma, but drivers have generally been great along the way. Fortunately, most of the drivers were fine and all of the semis gave us enough room and were generally patient. Second, on the Alabama state highways we went on, there was litter everywhere—miles and miles and miles of it. Really sad. They need to have those sponsor-a-mile of highway programs for Hwy 18!  Third, there are more churches per mile in Alabama than any other state we’ve gone though. It is dizzying how many small churches there. I hope that these churches are ministering the many in need in this part of the state”

The other blog that mentioned Mississippi this morning was that of Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, who had these words:

“In Flight of the Creative Class, I argued that America was no longer a single country, but  two or more divided along the lines of social and economic class. Now, alongside Bill Bishop’s, The Big Sort, comes a new American Human Development Index, modeled on the landmark UN report.  The Independent summarizes some of its key findings.

“The United States of America is becoming less united by the day. A 30-year gap now exists in the average life expectancy between Mississippi, in the Deep South, and Connecticut, in prosperous New England.(emphasis added)  Huge disparities have also opened up in income, health and education depending on where people live in the US, according to a report published yesterday.”

So, what’s my point?  It is that I find it fascinating that both these alerts were under the search the news heading of “Mississippi Economic Development.”

By the way, I’m just about finished with reading The Big Sort.  I’ll have a book review for you in a week or so.  I’ll tell you now that it is one of the more profound books I’ve read this year.

The Atlanta Fed’s 2007 Annual Report “The Southeast Economy: A Larger Perspective”

The Atlanta Fed’s 2007 Annual Report examines the evolution of the dynamic Southeastern economy, from its agrarian roots to its current state, and looks to the challenges the region’s economy faces in the future.  Click here to go to the report.

Some snippets:

The primary challenge facing the Southeast is elevating the education level of the region’s people to meet the demands of the present and future job market.

In 2007, after decades of huge in-flows, more people left Florida than moved in.

Service sector jobs in the Southeast represent 84 percent of total jobs.

Signs of a slowing economy were numerous: Employment growth decelerated, banks saw profits and lending growth decline, retail sales began to slacken, and real estate activity fell on virtually all fronts.  In the second half of 2007, the Southeast created the fewest jobs it had produced in a six-month period since the first half of 2003. The rate of job growth for the year decelerated to 1.1 percent, down from 1.7 percent in 2006.