Monthly Archives: December 2009

Does shopping locally really matter?

That question should be easily answered after reading the column that I wrote for the Mississippi Business Journal a few years ago.



(c) Mississippi Business Journal

This is a tale of two dollars. One stayed at home. One went to another town.

Once upon a time there were two dollars. They each lived with their owners in the small town of Make Believe in rural Mississippi. Make Believe was a nice little town. There was a Main Street that had lots of little shops that sold special items and arts and crafts and catered to people who drove through town. There was also a grocery store. There was even a doctor in Make Believe. It was a nice little town that was enjoyed by all its residents, none of whom wanted it to change.

This story of the first dollar is easy to tell. Its owner placed it snugly in her purse and drove 45 minutes to a nearby, larger town with a shopping mall. The owner stayed all day at the mall and spent the entire dollar on things bought in stores owned by big corporations in faraway states.

Part of the first little dollar stayed in that town and part of it went to the state government, but most of it went by electronic magic to another state. At the end of the day, the owner went back to Make Believe with all her treasures. Not one penny of the first dollar ever saw Make Believe, Miss., again.

The story of the second dollar is much different. The owner of the second dollar went to a little shop in downtown Make Believe. There the owner talked a long time to the shop owner about the beautiful merchandise in the store.

The shopkeeper told all about the things that were made right there in Make Believe. There were birdhouses built by Bob, beveled glass made by Beverly, blouses of silk designed by Betty, mocha chocolates by Missy, and even silverware crafted by Sam.

This owner of the dollar spent the entire dollar right there in the shop. The journey of the second dollar was much different from that of the first dollar. Yes, the first 7 cents arrived at the government in Jackson. One penny was sent back to the local town. So one penny of the sales tax came back to the Make Believe City Hall.

The owner of the shop took the next 50 cents and sent it to the manufacturers of the items that were bought. Because all of them lived right there in Make Believe, the 50 cents stayed there.

The next 16 cents went to the employee of the shop owner. Yes, you guessed it; the employee lived in Make Believe.

There was rent to pay on the shopkeeper’s retail space. It was paid to the owner of the building, who had lived in Make Believe all his life. The rent was 10 cents of the dollar.

There were operating expenses that the shopkeeper had to pay. Things such as utilities and maintenance and insurance. Sixteen cents of the dollar went to pay those expenses and some of the people that got paid lived in another town far away. Still, eight of those 16 cents was paid to people in Make Believe.

That left 8 cents. What would happen to it?

That’s right. Eight cents was the shopkeeper’s profit she got to keep. Of course, the shopkeeper lived in an apartment upstairs above the shop.

If we total where the second dollar went, we learn about 86 cents stayed in Make Believe.

I wonder what will happen to the 86 cents. Will the manufacturer, the employee, the real estate owner, the shopkeeper and the others spend the 86 cents in Make Believe? Or will they go somewhere else?

I wonder how much of the 86 cents will be spent in Make Believe. Because every time another penny is spent in Make Believe, the little town is better off because someone in Make Believe received it instead of another town.

Each person has a right to spend his or her money wherever and whenever he or she wishes. But when people spend their dollars in other towns, it does not help the economy of their hometowns.

The Tale of Two Dollars is told at this time every year because many people don’t know when they spend their money in their own hometown it helps their hometown.

Editor’s Note: Phil Hardwick is a contributing writer for the Mississippi Business Journal.

Seeking Mississippi’s Healthiest Hometown

Do you live in a healthy hometown?  If so, it could win a $50,000 grant.  The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has announced a competitive application process for towns that make their citizens healthier.  The deadline for applying is April 16, 2010, and the winners will be announced at the Mississippi Municipal League Annual Conference.  It would be a quite a marketing tool for a community to be able to say that it is Mississippi’s Healthiest Hometown.

Check out the complete information at

Did the War on Poverty Fail?

The short answer is “yes” if one looks at the percentage of people in poverty.  Much has been written about the failure of the War on Poverty, and it’s no wonder.  In 1966, the poverty rate in the U.S. was 14.7 percent.  Since then it has varied between 11.1 percent and 15.2 percent.  According to the Census Bureau, the 2007 rate was 12.5 percent.


The secret to escaping poverty

The secret to escaping poverty is no secret at all, according to  Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill in their new book Creating an Oportunity Society.   Those who finish high school, work full time and marry before having children are virtually guaranteed a place in the middle class. Only about 2 percent of this group ends up in poverty.

They say that there are three things that the government could do to reduce poverty.

(1)  Improve public education:
Expand pre-school programs, implement national achievement standards and establish more “paternalistic” charter schools.
Provide low-income and minority pupils with better college-prep services.

(2)  Encourage work:
Enlarge the size and scope of the Child Tax Credit, increase child-care funding and bolster job-training programs.
Building on the successful Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and experiment with “EITC-type wage supplements” for workers who either don’t have children or don’t have custody of their children.

(3)  Strengthen families:
Address a longstanding social crisis: the surge in non-marital births; in 2007, nearly 40 percent of all United States births were outside of marriage, up from 34 percent.
Last year, according to the Census Bureau, only 40 percent of African-American children lived with two parents, compared with 78 percent of non-Hispanic white children.

Source: Creating an Opportunity Society (Brookings Institute Press)  as reported in The Mobility Agenda, National Center for Policy Analysis.

One way government can get citizens’ ideas

The lack of citizen participation in government at all levels has been lamented many times.  Often, elected officials will merely announce that they welcome comments and ideas about new inititives – and they usually mean it.  However, citizens who submit ideas never realy know if their ideas were considered or even received.  They certainly do not know what ideas other citizens might have submitted.  Perhaps technology can improve the situation.

An example can be found in Seattle, Washington, where the new mayor is using the Internet to ask for advice from citizens.  It’s called Ideas for Seattle, a Web site where citizens can contribute new ideas for the future of the city and vote on ideas submitted by other citizens.  Check it out at

Tacky Light Tour on TLC, The Learning Channel

Tacky Light Tour on TLC, The Learning Channel

See us on TLC, The Learning Channel!
The Tacky Light Tour season is in full swing with over 35 million Christmas lights from 430 displays in 270 cities featured online.

This year son-in-law Matt Burgess, the founder of;, with several Tacky Light Tour decorators will be featured in the television special called Crazy Christmas Lights on the The Learning Channel (TLC)l.

Tune in to TLC for the following airings of Crazy Christmas Lights:
Sunday, December 6 @ 8:00pm EST
Sunday, December 6 @ 11:00pm EST
Tuesday, December 15 @ 7:00pm EST
Wednesday, December 16 @ 2:00am EST

For a 3-minute sneak peak go to the TLC Channel;

Authors Alan Lange and Tom Dawson to addrees Stennis-Capitol Press Luncheon on December 7

Kings of Tort, by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson, is to be released nationwide on
December 2nd. And on Monday, December 7 at noon at the University Club in
downtown Jackson the authors will address the Stennis-Capitol Press Corps
luncheon. You can register by replying to this e-mail or on the website at Cost to attend is $15.

Here’s more (from the Kings of Tort website):

The amazing story behind tort magnate Dickie Scruggs’s judicial bribery
scandal is presented by Pediment Publishing. Kings of Tort is the
authoritative work on documenting this nationally known story and the
relatively unknown 25 year history behind it. The book will be made
available in retail outlets throughout the country on December 2nd. More
Information including advance ordering of the book is available at

Alan Lange is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and is actively involved in
a variety of business and community interests. He is the founder of
YallPolitics <>, one of the largest political
interest websites in the Southeast. YallPolitics became ground zero for
documenting the Scruggs and Minor scandals. He is also president of Kinetic
Staffing, a southeast regional legal and accounting recruiting firm. Along
with his wife, Holly, and their sons Ford and Jake, they live in Jackson’s
Fondren community – not far from their alma mater, Millsaps College.
Tom Dawson is a 36-year veteran federal prosecutor, having served as a trial
attorney with the Department of Justice in Washington, D. C., Associate
Independent Counsel and Assistant U.S. Attorney. Since his retirement in
January 2009, he has been widely recognized by his peers for his role as
lead counsel in the investigation and prosecution of the Scruggs cases. Tom
and his wife Susan reside in Oxford, Mississippi.