Regions Honors Week of Giving Back
Bank's Greenwood branch hosted community food drive
|Associates from Regions branches in Greenwood recently collected canned goods and presented a check for $425 to the local food pantry. Pictured from left, clockwise are: Sharon Hines, Martha Jean Parker, Cheryl Hollis, Kay Hall, Brenda Miller, Patsy Flautt, Callie Crain and Tommy Ellett.
In celebration of its annual company-wide "Share The Good Week," Regions Bank associates in Greenwood recently met and worked with hundreds of people throughout the area. The bank, that prides itself on giving more and providing an unparalleled level of friendly service, took this opportunity to thank and recognize the good work and needs in area communities. Employees participated by volunteering, performing random acts of kindness and generally honoring the good in communities in the area.
"In a very direct sense, we owe the strength and stability of our company to the people we serve and the communities in which we do business," said George Jarman, Regions Level 1 President for Greenwood. "This week was all about acknowledging the good we see here and giving some of our time and energy back to our communities."
In many instances, local organizations and those in need were the beneficiaries of "Share the Good Week." But in others, it was simply citizens and customers of Regions receiving a special thank you, smile or helping hand.
As part of "Share the Good Week" associates from Regions branches in Greenwood collected canned goods and presented a check for $425 to the local food pantry.
They also visited local police and four fire departments and delivered donuts in appreciation of their daily service to our communities and delivered 'goodie bags' to all teachers and assistants at W.C. Williams Elementary School and Amanda Elzy Elementary School.
Progress Made for Sunflower River Weir
Area will be used for tourism and recreation
The Delta Bridge Project in Coahoma County is funding construction of the weir on the Sunflower River. The purpose of this project is to elevate the average level of the Sunflower River through public areas to make it a tourist, recreation and economic development anchor in Coahoma County. The construction of the diversionary channel and buffer dams is complete so the area where the weir will be built may dry out. The anticipated results of this project will directly impact Southern Bancorp's goals of reducing poverty and unemployment by creating new economic opportunities and improving quality of life for residents of Coahoma County.
Lifelong Tunica Supporter Recognized
Reception held to honor Ellis Koonce Jr.
Photo credit Brooks Taylor/Tunica Times
Sheriff K.C. Hamp, presented Mr. Koonce with a special award from the Sheriff's Department.
The Tunica Main Street organization recently held a reception at the Tunica Museum to honor Ellis Koonce Jr.
Koonce, who has been retired for nearly ten years, has severed the community in several capacities.
He has worked as an alderman, businessman, judge, town clerk, interim sheriff and mayor.
He is a founding father of the Tunica Museum Board of Directors and the county Tourism Commission and has been a longtime supporter of Tunica Main Street.
Koonce has displayed pride and worked tirelessly for the betterment of his hometown and says he was honored by the community reception.
"I walked around town for about four or five days and my head was as big as two watermelons," he exclaimed.
In his retirement, Koonce and his wife Mary Don, enjoy supporting Tunica as well as spending time with his family.
"I am 82 years old so there's not a whole lot left to do," he joked. "I like to go down to the coffee shop at 9 o'clock every morning and I enjoy seeing the kids and grandkids. I have two sons and a daughter, seven grandkids and a great-grandchild on the way."
MDA Launches Mississippi Freedom Trail
Markers commemorate state's Civil Rights heritage
|From Left to Right: Reverend Wheeler Parker, who was Emmett Till's cousin and was with him at the time of his abduction, Dr. George Schimmel of Jackson, Allan Hammons, the graphic designer who crafted the marker, Luther Brown of the DSU Delta Center for Culture and Learning and Jim Powers of Jackson.
MDA's Tourism Division has recently announced the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Trail, a major cultural initiative designed to commemorate the state's Civil Rights heritage. The trail will offer a virtual tour of the state and those sites that played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.
|Dr. Henry Outlaw of DSU standing next to the banner that promotes Mississippi's new Civil Rights Trail.
The Mississippi Freedom Trail has been a work-in-progress over the last year. Along with a task force of scholars, historians and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, MDA coordinated the important work of selecting 25 initial sites for the trail from over 300 submissions from communities around the state.
In addition to the 25 initial sites, another five sites were pre-selected in association with the Mississippi Freedom 50th Foundation in anticipation of the Mississippi Freedom Riders Reunion activities scheduled last month. Those five markers were unveiled last month. On May 18, the first of the five pre-selected markers were officially unveiled in memory of Emmett Till near Bryant's Store in Money, Miss.
Till's cousin, Reverend Wheeler Parker and other members of the Till family were in attendance.
The four additional pre-selected markers were unveiled at the following locations: Medgar Evers' House in Jackson, the Greyhound Bus Station in Jackson, Fannie Lou Hamer memorial in Ruleville and the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.
These first five markers were funded with donations from Tougaloo College, MDA and local private and public contributions.
The Price of Land
Values of Delta farm and recreational land reach historic high
By Becky Gillette
Photography By Matthew Wood
Demand and prices for precision leveled, irrigated Delta farmland has gone the same direction as commodity prices: up and up.
Delta Farmland prices are at historical highs, according to Henry Mosco, owner of Mosco Land and Realty and Mosco Farms in Cleveland.
"I've seen the trend stay there and continue to rise because of the out-of-state investors and other people investing in farmland," Mosco says. "It is a seller's market."
If you want to sell, there has been no better time. But Mosco says prices are so high, it is hard to pay for the land with farming.
Lucy Capocaccia, a partner at Leland Speaks Realty in Cleveland, is hearing from a lot of farmers—particularly older farmers—that the trend worries them.
"The majority of big price sales we are seeing on large tracks are foreign buyers or large pension funds," Capocaccia says. "The older farmer's perspective is what is going to happen if commodity prices drop. The cost of farming is not going to go down. If commodity prices drop, and they don't see a decrease in the cost of farming, then that is not going to be good. You will have all these people who spent a premium for land, and it will be hard to make a crop and justify your farm payment."
Capocaccia says most of the demand is for large tracts of land, several thousand acres compared to 50-acre tracks. She hasn't seen much reluctance for the big investors to pay top prices for the farmland.
"Prices are continuing to go up," she says. "We have seen some significantly large increases in the values paid for both farmland and recreational lands. We have investors coming in from other states primarily interested in duck hunting. They will just about pay any price. It is a big business. They sell hunts and that contributes to the value of the land. It isn't unusual for a group like businessmen from Jackson or Memphis to come to this area of the Delta and purchase 300 to 400 acres of land, build a lodge, and come up here to spend a month or two a year. All that contributes back to the overall market for the land especially if it is a piece of land known to be a good waterfowl habitat."
In addition to high commodity prices, low interest rates are another major factor driving high demand.
"These are the highest commodity prices and the lowest interests rates at the same time that I have seen in my career," says Rives Neblett, a farmer and real estate broker in Shelby. "This is sort of an anomaly—something you usually don't see. It is all driven by rental rates. Rental rates are driven by commodity prices and input costs. It is all the factor of the profitability of the farmer."
Neblett explains that Delta farmland sells in a range from $1,800 to $3,800 per acre depending on the improvements and the productivity of the land. With interest rates at five percent, the cost of serving a loan for land at $3,000 per acre is $150 per acre per year. At nine percent, that same loan would cost $270 per acre per year.
Another factor is that pension funds and other large investors look at investing in land as a way to diversity their investments. Historically farmland has been a good investment compared to stocks, bonds and other investments.
"This is the only investment you can ride over and enjoy while you own it," Neblett says. "Ownership of a stock or bond doesn't provide that enjoyment."
Prices for Delta farmland are averaging at least 10 percent higher than in April 2010, according to John M. Dean, Jr., LANDMART/Dean Land & Realty Co. in Leland. "The availability of quality farmland on the market has become practically non-existent at the same time the qualified buyer pool is broader than ever before," he says.
Dean says this increased demand holds true not only for the Delta, but for the other major productive agricultural regions of the U.S. and other countries.
"This demand is not a short-term phenomena since productive farmland is now beginning to be accepted as an 'asset class' by the domestic and international investment capital market investors," Dean says. "Given such macro-economic drivers as an improving diet in a growing world population, inflation concerns and growing use of biofuels, institutional investors in particular are looking to the stability and competitive total returns provided by investment grade farmland as an attractive alternative to balance portfolios."
If there are areas in the Delta, which might be considered less attractive as a farmland investment, Dean says it would probably be those, which occasionally are subject to backwater flooding.
Getting the Grants
Funding goes to projects with sound business criteria
By Becky Gillette
Business and government groups alike have been challenged by these difficult economic times. But when the chips are down, it is even more important to support expansions of existing businesses while working to attract new industry.
The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) has been able to remain a vital conduit for state and federal loans and grants to stimulate economic development even while undergoing significant budget cuts, says Whit Hughes, deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority.
"If you look at our budget in 2004, it was $24.7 million," Hughes says. "Today, it is $21.6 million—$3.1 million less than it was seven years ago. This represents a significant budget cut. Through attrition, we have reduced our staff 15 percent since 2004. But in terms of delivering on our programs and services, we are doing better because financial assistance programs are just one of the types of programs we offer. And that is a real credit to the quality of our team."
MDA doesn't operate on a quota system with each section of the state apportioned a certain percentage of resources. But Hughes says when you look around the state to see where grant and loan assistance has been provided, it is well-balanced.
"Our team is always focused on doing the right things for the right reasons," Hughes says. "It is good to see it is making a difference statewide, including the Delta. Our decisions are made on business case information and principles. The basis is not political. It is not geographical. All grant and loan programs have policies, procedures and guidelines that drive eligibility. The challenge for our team is there are many more eligible applications than we have dollars to go around. We are very careful with our decision making, that is why we have driven our culture so hard here to make sure we have the appropriate process in place that will give us the baseline for decision making for grants and loans."
Hughes says there is nothing "cookie cutter" about the process to recruit new businesses or support existing business: It is driven by the needs and requests of the client. Once those needs are determined, the MDA partners with local economic development groups, cities, counties and utility groups to come up with the most attractive package to make the project work.
One thing he feels strongly about is making sure those other partners know what programs are available.
"Typically grants are for helping with publicly owned infrastructure and other similar needs," Hughes says. "We want to make everyone in the state aware of the programs available."
MDA has made major improvements on its website to make it easier to understand the various offerings.
"We have worked real hard on our website, www.mississippi.org," Hughes says. "For a long time, we had great information on the website, but it was hard to find. Now it is easier to find. It is a great reference to understand our grant and loan capabilities."
One of the top projects for the Delta in the past year is the German pipe company factory, Schulz Xtruded Products, which will bring $300 million in investment and 500 jobs to Tunica. Initially that company was looking all over the world to site the plant that will produce seamless metallurgical bonded pipe products for the oil and gas industries using a breakthrough extrusion process.
"The Schulz leadership decided it wanted to be in the U.S., then narrowed it down to the Southeast, and ultimately at the end of the day the final decision was made to invest and create those jobs in Tunica," Hughes says. "That is a great testimonial to the pro-business environment of the state and the quality of our workforce."
MDA provided help with local infrastructure improvements and workforce development.
"Grants can't make a project, and they shouldn't," says Lyn Arnold, president and CEO, Tunica Chamber of Commerce. "But they can help. They really do offer an opportunity to add to projects that are good already, but need a little enhancement to get done. It is also just a good business case. One of the things with Gray Swoope (former head of MDA) and Gov. Barbour is there is always a good business case behind any project they have supported for Mississippi. And I think that is important."
Another major Delta economic development grant was the expansion of the Uncle Ben's Mars food plant in Greenville, which represented a $7 million investment by the company.
"This is a good example of an existing industry that has been very pleased with their experience in Mississippi," Hughes says. "As they looked at their growth models, they sought us out in the initial stages to discuss an opportunity to do that in Greenville. By coordinating with local government and utility partners, we were able to provide a compelling business case that ultimately guided them to a decision to grow in Greenville. Our team understands there is nothing more fundamentally important than supporting those already doing business in our state."
Calendar of Events
Tai Chi Practice, Delta Arts Alliance, 5 pm, 843-3344
Cleveland Farmers’ Market, Mississippi Grounds, 4-6 pm
Mississippi State Long-Course State Championship, DSU Aquatic Center, All day July 21–24
Football Presents Big Man Power Camp, Football Practice Field, 11:00 am–10:00 pm
Child Development Center Luau, DSU Quad, 12:00–5:00 pm
Cleveland Farmers’ Market, Parking lot behind post office, 8 am
Crochet Class, Delta Knits, 349 Cotton Row, Saturdays 10 am, Call Jondelyn to reserve a spot, 545-4165
Football Presents Big Man Power Camp, Football Practice Field, 7:00 am–5:00 pm
Mississippi Summer Arts Institute Performance, BPAC DP & L Theater, 10:00 am
Through August 26
DSU Art Faculty Art Exhibition, Delta Arts Alliance, M-T 8-4, Fri 8-12:30, Sat 10-1, 843-3344, firstname.lastname@example.org
Southaven Farmer’s Market, State Line Road, Hwy 51 and Main St. District, 7:30 am–2:00 pm
Hernando’s Farmers Market, Hernando Courthouse Square, 8 am-1 pm
Olive Branch’s Farmers Market, Chamber of Commerce, 8 am-12 pm
Kids & Clay Art Camp, Desoto Arts Council-Hernando, 10:30 am-12:30 pm, 662-404-3361
Groovin’ in the Grove, Snowden Grove House-Southaven, Performance by Pam & Terry with Bob Westbrook Singers, 7:30-9:30 pm, www.groovininthegrove.com
Through July 30
Horn Lake’s Farmers Market, Horn Lake City Hall Parking Lot, 2-7 pm
WWISCAA Food Festival, Washington Co. Convention Center, Featuring Southern cuisine, ethnic dishes and unique costumes
Through July 29
4th Biennial Juried Invitational Exhibit, Roger D. Malkin Gallery, Features over 55 Mississippi artists
Farmers’ Market, Downtown Greenwood
Through September 6
Robert Johnson Exposed Exhibit, Cottonlandia Museum, www.cottonlandia.org
Through June 12
Thunder on Water, Grenada Lake, Live music, fireworks, carnival, crafts, etc., www.thunderonwater.net
Zooming with Zumba Class – B.B. King Museum, 10:30 am–12:00 pm
Live Blues Performance, B. B. King Museum, 12:00–3:00 pm
Kathy Griffin Comedic Performance, Harrah’s Casino
Asian Show, Gold Strike Casino