Monthly Archives: January 2016
Clear skies predicted with new carrier approved to serve airport in Greenville
By Becky Gillette
It has been a rocky road for the Mid-Delta Regional Airport in the past year, as the airport lost regular jet service and started new service with SeaPort Airlines, only to lose that in September due to problems with that airline. But the Mid-Delta Regional Airport turned a major corner in early November when passenger services started with a new airline based in California, Boutique Air. And a new airport manager was hired, after difficulties earlier in the year finding the right person for the position.“With all that, we are excited about what the future holds for the airport,” says Greenville Mayor John H. Cox III. “A lot of things are happening all of the sudden.”The airport was without passenger service for about five weeks after SeaPort withdrew. Cox says SeaPort Airlines had a lot of internal problems and difficulties ramping up service in a number of different markets at one time. “I think they tried to go into this market too early and weren’ t prepared administratively, equipment-wise, or in terms of adequate personnel such as pilots,” Cox says. “They weren’ t able to have enough planes to even take off, let alone meet their flight schedules. They didn’ t last long.”With the support of the City of Greenville, Boutique Air was able to secure an Essential Air Services (EAS) contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide scheduled passenger services to Greenville through September 30, 2017. The schedule, which can be found online at www.boutiqueair.com, will feature two daily round trip flights between Greenville and Nashville, Tenn., and one daily roundtrip flight between Greenville and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. “We are excited to bring Boutique Air service to the community of Greenville and the surrounding areas,” says CEO Shawn Simpson. “Our focus on customer service and reliability has resulted in strong demand for our service in other markets, and we look forward to creating the same success story here.”Fares will start at an introductory rate of $69 from Greenville to Dallas, and $49 from Greenville to Nashville. The new airport director approved for hiring by the Greenville City Council is Lee Owen, a long-time resident of Greenville, who is a former city councilman and former member of the city’ s airport committee. Cox says the council felt Owen was a good choice because of his familiarity with the airport and the city. Owen has a history of management in various retail sales positions, and most recently has been employed in the advertising department of the Delta Democrat Times. “He has the management skills, communication skills and maturity for the job as airport director,” Cox says. “For the next six months to help get it all started, we are hiring a consultant who is a retired airport director, who will be coming in two days a month to help mentor, train and educate our new airport director, as well as an administrative assistant at the airport, who has been on the job for three months.”Cox says resumption of passenger air services is important not just to Greenville, but the
entire mid-Delta region regarding economic development. “Whenever outside firms are looking at areas where they might locate a factory, they try to determine if commercial air service is available at that location,” Cox says. “If you aren’ t able to check the box ‘ yes’ for commercial air service, many times you get put on a shelf at an early stage. We think it is very important not only for current employers in the area, but for the future potential of industries that would locate here. It is also important to people who live in the region.”
Chick-fil-A Leader Academy
Reimagining High School Leadership with Programs in Mississippi Schools
By Angela Rogalski
Photography by RJ Fitzpatrick
Lance Reed is the owner/operator of Chick-fil-A in Oxford, Miss., and one of the driving forces behind the Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy program currently being implemented into some Mississippi schools, including many in the Delta. “ Chick-fil-A has a program called the Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, and it’s in about 250 schools this year across the country,” Reed says. “ My involvement in the program came about when I became connected with Tom Pittman, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, and Dr. Albert Nylander, Director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and a Professor of Sociology at Ole Miss. Dr. Nylander is really the one who helped us in securing all of the schools in the Delta.” Since Chick-fil-A doesn’t have a large presence in the Mississippi Delta, other than the licensee location at Delta State, Reed says Nylander was instrumental in bringing the program to the Delta high schools that were chosen, due to his Delta roots and past position as Dean of Graduate Studies & Continuing Education, and Department Chair, at Delta State. Reed’s vision for the program’s implementation in schools is to bring Chick-fil-A owner/operators throughout the state into the effort and make a real impact on people’s lives. “ At Chick-fil-A our corporate purpose is to glorify God by being faithful stewards of all that’s been entrusted to us, and we want to have a positive influence on everyone who comes into contact with Chick-fil-A,” Reed says. “ So that positive impact on lives is really what this program is all about.” Reed says he began to talk with other Chick-fil-A owner/operators in Mississippi about joining the effort. “ We now have 10 operators across the state who are involved in this effort,” he adds. “ We have Nick Jones at Vicksburg, Neil Osborne in Clinton; four operators down in Jackson—Keys Hayes, Chris Rosson, Morgan Koon and Chris Salomone; Jon Munger in Starkville; two operators in Tupelo, Jamey Finley and Justin Flowers; and myself in Oxford.” Reed says what most of the owner/operators from these Chick-fil-A’s have done is adopt a school in their communities and one in the Delta. “ I asked them to choose a Delta school as well as one from their own area,” he says. “ And all of these participating Chick-fil-A’s are providing the funding for the program in each specific school. And the majority of the 19 schools that we’re in are in the Mississippi Delta.” The Delta Schools chosen for the program are: • Cleveland High School
• Coahoma County High School • North Panola High School • Ruleville Central High School • Delta Streets Academy • West Tallahatchie High School • Gentry High School • Bayou Academy • Clarksdale High School • Coahoma Agricultural High School • Eastside High School • Vicksburg High School • Warren Central High School The Chick-fil-A Leader Academy Program is designed for 9th-12th grade levels and helps to develop leadership skills with the students. “ We had our Kickoff event recently at Delta State, and we had about 450 students who attended,” Reed says. “ Delta State was a tremendous partner with this event. Elizabeth Joel, one of the Continuing Education Coordinators at the university, was phenomenal. We couldn’t have pulled this event off without Elizabeth Joel’s help, and also Delta State’s.” The Kickoff event helped students and others learn just what the Leader Academy was all about. “ Students learn about leadership through Leader Labs, which are held once a month,” Reed says. “ Each month the teacher facilitates the discussion, using the curriculum that’s provided, with the students. The Leadership Labs culminate into students mobilizing other students at their school and doing something to impact their communities. So, they’re getting taught about leadership, and then this motivates them to go out into their own communities and make a positive impact.” Reed says where the Chick-fil-A Foundation comes in is that the Foundation has $100,000 in micro grants. The schools can apply to the Foundation and possibly get grant money that would aid them in the community-wide projects they set forth for the students through the Leader Academy. “ Our thing was: we have all of these communities in our backyard, such as in theMississippi Delta, that are in need of these programs,” Reed says. “ So how could we, as Chick-fil-A operators, come together to maybe do something remarkable over in the Delta? And how could we partner with the schools to help from an educational standpoint, because we felt like if we were going to be able to make a change and an impact, it was going to start with education.” Reed stresses that Dr. Nylander from Ole Miss’s McLean Institute was huge in assisting with this endeavor. “ Dr. Nylander is the one who connected us with Elizabeth Joel at Delta State,” he adds. “ And Delta State was a great partner. They gave away free backpacks to all the kids who came to the Kickoff event, and free T-shirts, and for a lot of the kids it was the first time ever that they had been on a college campus. So this was a big deal for them.” Reed says at the end of the event, through a partnership with a group called“ Feeding Children Everywhere,” the students who participated in the event packed over 100,000
meals, which were distributed to different foodbanks throughout the Delta. With the program, the school identifies a teacher as facilitator for the curriculum and then in turn, the teacher/facilitator identifies the students who might be interested in the program. “ There are usually 25-30 students chosen,” Reed says, “ and they’ll meet at various times, sometimes after school. Of course, we let the schools identify the kids for the program.” Reed says the current program is funded through this academic year. “ After that, we’ll probably evaluate things and see where we are and where we need to be,” he adds. “ Hopefully we can grow the program, and of course, that’s our vision. But we also have to have those Chick-fil-A operators who are helping to sponsor the program and bringing it to the schools. This is year one, where we’re laying the foundation and the groundwork. In the future, we hope to have all of the Mississippi Delta schools involved and more Chick-fil-A operators throughout the state involved, as well.”
Hunting Season in Full Swing
My last column of 2015 in the Delta Business Journal has nothing to do with business. But more importantly, the 2015-16 deer season is in full swing and that is on my mind this time of the year. Like other Delta hunters, from here until mid-January, I will be in the woods every chance I can get. However, this deer season, besides trying to take a shot at that huge buck I have been dreaming about, I’m going to also use my time on the stand to take advantage to again read several of Peter Capstick’s hunting books. Capstick is known for his African hunting writings. Some of his more famous works are Death in the Dark Continent, Death in the Long Grass, Safari: The Last Adventure, and A Man Called Lion. Capstick’s life was very interesting. He died in 1998, was raised in New Jersey and went to school at the University of Virginia. At the height of a successful career on Wall Street, he walked away from it all and decided to become a professional hunter. Capstick first moved to South America, where he learned to speak Spanish and found a job as an assistant to professional hunters. A few years later, he returned to New York and started a business arranging professionally-guided hunting trips to various places around the globe. Several of those hunts included taking clients to Africa. Capstick fell in love with Africa and moved there where he started a second hunting service. From New Jersey to Wall Street, to the African bush, is a pretty amazing journey for a guy who grew up in rural New Jersey. Captstick discovered he had a talent for writing about his adventures. He submitted short articles to hunting magazines and that led to his contributing hunting columns to newspapers syndicated across the U.S. In 1977, he published his first book, Death in the Long Grass, which became a commercial success and established his reputation as an author of true adventure stories. Today, Capstick and his books are compared to Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark. I first read Death In the Long Grass back in 1994 after learning about him from several friends, who hunted in Africa in the 80s and 90s. In fact, in my county, we still have several who hunt in Africa every year or so. Death In the Long Grass is about leading safaris through dangerous lion country in Africa and tracking man-eating lions and other dangerous game in tight spots with almost zero visibility. Just before the animals charge the hunters, the hunters either take a stand aiming their loaded rifles toward the incoming lion or they run for cover as the lions race out of the thickness from all directions. In this particular book, Capstick also writes about witnessing lions attack hunters as well as in-camp attacks where he describes lion maulings that took place in the middle of the night. True accounts of the dangers of hunting in Africa their Department of Tourism will never mention for fear it will hurt their tourism and hunting industries. This particular comment has stayed with me: “…Once we found the lions, then getting ready for their incoming attack, waiting for the lions to charge us like an express train out of control—was almost unbearable at times,” says Capstick. “ Some clients were so afraid they could not pull the trigger on their guns and so we had to with ours. The speed at which the lion races directly toward you with a roar so loud it shakes the ground you are
standing on, can shatter the nerves and paralyze the strongest man.” For any hunter in search of some great books to read this season, the Capstick books will do the trick…and then some. In closing, we at the Delta Business Journal wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. And, Merry Christmas!
Underneath the Bridge Issue
By Walton Gresham
Delta Council has never had a public discussion or a private visit with a public official about the condition of our roads and the need for major steps to be taken to rehabilitate our roads that ended in disagreement. Regardless of what statistical or factual measurement one utilizes, a needs assessment always comes out the same in any discussion about local, state, or federal road conditions: We are not doing enough in our State to maintain the infrastructure (roads and bridges) necessary to provide safety or encourage the expansion of commerce. And, any businessman, family, civic organization, or any local public body knows that you cannot maintain, much less improve, the status of local road and bridge infrastructure in 2015, with the same level of revenue that you placed in your budget 28 years ago, in 1987. So, for those who embrace the philosophy of “no new revenues” for road maintenance and improvements, your position guarantees us further deterioration in our local, state, and federal highway conditions. Delta Council Policy Highlights on Highways• Bridge replacements on Highway 6, Highway 49E, and Highway 32. • Funding for the authorized four-laning of Highway 6 between Clarksdale and Batesville. • the continued progress on I-69 construction. • Delta Council supports the concept of utilizing revenues from the sale of motor fuel to construct and maintain highways. • Delta Council opposes the diversion of future motor fuel tax revenues for other state priorities unrelated to roads and bridges. • Delta Council makes exception to the policy of “pay as you go” in the case of bridge replacements; therefore, long-term financing is an option that should be considered for the 50-year life of the bridge upgrades. • In any major program, additional funding should be dedicated to local road/bridge repairs. An estimated 2000 bridges in the State of Mississippi are categorized as “posted” or “structurally deficient”. This means that an automobile or a pickup truck might travel safely over the posted bridge, but as for a transporter hauling industrial or agriculture raw materials or retail/commercial finished goods, it is illegal for them to travel these roads because they cannot cross the low-weight bridges which are posted, even though they are carrying a legal road weight-limit according to State law. In the Delta alone, we have experienced the closing or the failure of more than 20 bridges since January 1, 2015. Delta Council is convinced that City, County, the State Aid Road Division, and MDOT are doing all within their resources to keep road and bridge safety at least at a level of minimum standards, until the public decides that commerce and public safety are too important for us to grapple over the adoption of the necessary revenue measure to support a major road program.
So, why have we not yet addressed this major public polity issue? We choose to think that in order for any public official to embrace the concept of raising additional revenues, those who pull up to a gas pump and are expected to pay more must organize themselves and send a message: It is not only time to do something about this problem, but it is also the right thing to do. The facts are that highway construction inputs have increased more than 300% since 1987, when we last added 3.6 cents per gallon to the price of motor fuel. Second, the fuel efficiency of modern automobiles, which is measured by miles-per-gallon, is 60% greater than it was in 1987. Third, in the same time period, the purchasing power of our per-gallon tax has declined by more than 40%. The options we are confronted with are unfortunately, very simple. We can oppose new revenues for local and state road and bridge improvements, and allow the deteriorating condition of our roads to continue in the reckless way we are headed; or we can speak up and lend our public support, as civic clubs, non-governmental organizations such as Delta Council, and individuals, to encourage our public officials to adopt policies that provide the necessary and additional revenues to be collected at the pump to support the rehabilitation and repair of vital infrastructure which protects public safety and ensures that our road system will not be an impediment to future economic development efforts.
Protecting Mississippi’s Fish, Wildlife and Habitats through Conservation and Education
By Angela Rogalski & Photography by Greg Campbell and courtesy of Sam Polles
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks is a state agency charged with the responsibility of conserving Mississippi’ s abundant natural resources and providing quality outdoor recreational opportunities for the sporting public. In addition, the agency also provides extensive educational programs throughout the State, as well as a wide range of law enforcement functions to ensure compliance and public safety. Dr. Sam G. Polles is Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. He and his wife, Mary Margaret Humber Polles, have been married for 48 years