Category Archives: Columbus

Bring Your Kids, Bring Your Cameras, and Come on Out to the XMAS Tree Lighting and Caroling Downtown!

Bring Your Kids and Come on Out to the XMAS Tree Lighting Downtown!

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Tonight is the annual lighting of the biggest and best Christmas tree around, says Main Street Columbus Executive Director Barbara Bigelow: “Everyone is invited to gather from 5:30-7 p.m. at the east end of the Tombigbee pedestrian bridge where the city will have one of the beautiful magnolia trees decorated.”

Kylee Price, then 3, is held up by her father Eliot Price during the 2015 Christmas tree lighting at the Riverwalk. This year’s official lighting festivities are Monday from 5:30-7 p.m. Photo Courtesy of The Dispatch

Fourth graders from Cook Elementary will be singing carols starting at 5:30PM, and Mayor Robert Smith will light the tree at about 6:15 p.m. Kids will be able to make craft items to take home, and everyone will have hot chocolate and cookies; representatives will also be accepting new, unwrapped toys for children aged 3 to 12 for the community toy drive.

Santa & Miz Claus will be on hand, along with a professional shutterbug to help preserve memories of the night’s festivities. Local event sponsors include Rex’s Rentals; Colin Krieger, RE/MAX Partners, Starkville-Columbus; DMayfield Photography; Visit Columbus; McAlister’s; and Coffeehouse on 5th.

“We hope everyone will bring their friends and families and enjoy this free community event,” said Bigelow. “This beautiful evening will give all kids, young and old, a wonderful, joyous time together — a night of family fun.”

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Columbus Brick Vows to Stay Just the Way It Is After Sale

Columbus Brick Vows to Stay Just the Way It Is After Sale

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Al Puckett of Columbus Brick. Photo Courtesy of The Dispatch

Al Puckett, the latest generation of owners at Columbus Brick Company, recently sold the company to Tennessee-based General Shale, more than 120 years after the company’s original founding by his great-great-grandfather. Puckett sees all of his workers and managers as family, and the sales agreement will see to it that they all keep their jobs, and, in fact, will be vital to bringing the business forward into the 21st century.

“[General Shale’s people] want everybody to stay,” Puckett said. “They will not put a person here. I’m going to stay on for at least four years and our general manager, Ed Thebaud, will continue to manage the day-to-day operations. Nobody is going to lose their job. It’s Columbus Brick, and it will stay that way.”

Puckett notes that this decision has been under consideration for many years, and is not one he took lightly: “Sure, there are always things you want to pursue,” he said. “But life is life. You may want those things, but really, what you have to do is walk through the doors that are before you.”

From left, Columbus Brick Company employees Kenneth Webb, Carl Summerville and Randy Macon shape bricks. Photo Courtesy of The Dispatch

Today, the company cranks out 140 million bricks every month, a volume which would have been unheard of back in the 1800s. Back then, you could find brickmakers just about everywhere; these days, not so much. However, Puckett says that his company is thriving in a day when the industry itself is on the verge of dying out: “The company is in great shape,” he said. “It’s not like (the sale) was something we were forced into. . . Our industry is in dire straits, about 30 percent of the brick companies are sitting idle, so nobody needs to go buy more capacity,” he added. “I think probably the biggest thing we were known for is the people we have accumulated. I’m often told I have the best people in the industry. I think that’s what made us appealing to General Shale. They know us. We know them.”

 

 

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Atmos Energy Moving, Consolidating GTR Offices Into One New Location

Atmos Energy Moving, Consolidating GTR Offices Into One New Location

GTR Area – Courtesy of the Dispatch –

Atmos Energy, its Columbus office shown here, is working on consolidating its three Golden Triangle offices into one central location by spring.
Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff

Michelle Whittle has stated that Atmos plans to consolidate three of their three existing “District 45” offices (The GTR plus Monroe & Tupelo Counties) into one new office, once funding has been finalized: “Our plans are for us to begin construction on our new office hopefully by spring,” Whittle said. “We most likely will sell the other three facilities.” The proposed new location is planned to be located next to Wade Construction on South Frontage Road, a few miles west of Columbus, and is expected to hold about fifty employees. The new location will serve Clay, Lowndes, and Oktibbeha counties.

The location is also a bit more centralized, and Whittle remarked that advancements in technology have made it easier to handle a spread-out service team more easily from a single dispatching area. The new office is intended to make much better use of space (for example, it will not serve as a showroom for selling heaters and similar products like the old office(s).

“All of us will move,” she went on to say. “Every one of us — we have about 28 employees. We all will begin reporting to the new office. We’re all excited about it. It’s going to be really nice.”

For the full article, please click here.

 

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C-L Chamber Announces New Members

C-L Chamber Announces New Members

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of The Dispatch – PRESS RELEASE (Exerpts)

From left, Matt Bogue, Greg Stewart and Jill Savely (courtesy photo)

Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the results of the 2017 board election. The new members are: New CLCC Board members elected are Matt Bogue, The Dutch Oil Group; Greg Stewart, Aurora Flight Sciences; and Jill Savely, EMCC Golden Triangle Early College High School. Bogue, Stewart, and Savely will serve a three year term from October 2017- September 2020 and were elected by majority vote by the Chamber membership.

The CLCC Board Chair for 2017-2018 is Melinda Lowe, Director for the Office of Outreach and Innovation at the Mississippi University for Women.

“The Chamber would not be where we are today without their leadership, and I am grateful. I look forward to working with such a great group of inspiring leaders and a great representation of our membership,” said Lisa James, CLCC President. “Together with the staff, this group will help build a successful future for the Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce.”

Board members serve staggered terms and are elected by the Chamber membership from a slate of 6 approved by the Executive Committee of the Golden Triangle Development LINK.

To see the full press release, please click here.

 

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Selling a Ton of the Best Fried Chicken Around…Every Day!

Selling a Ton of the Best Fried Chicken Around…Every Day!

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Fried chicken is just one of those foods that is synonymous with the South – and people flock from literally hundreds of miles around to get their fried chicken at Columbus’ own Food Goant supermarket, which has been supplying the all of their customers with tender, juicy birds for a decade or so.

Head fry cook Bobby Hill and Matt Critcher, one of Hill’s five fry cooks, batter chicken at Food Giant in Columbus Wednesday afternoon.
Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff

Bobbie Reese, the store’s deli manager, says that ” . . . [We] sell about 3,800 pieces a day; more on weekends,” she said. “It’s hard to say. I do know we order 275 cases of chicken each week and by the time Monday rolls around, we’ll have two, maybe three cases left before the next order comes in.” That works out to over six tons of of chicken sold every every week, year-round – nor far short of a ton a day. On average, their deli has 1,400 customers per week, according to store manager Ty Dankins, who has been there from the beginning.

“Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Macon, West Point,” Reese said. “There is a church in Birmingham that comes in once a month to pick up an 800-piece order. They say they can’t find chicken that tastes like ours anywhere else.” To what does she credit such amazing customer loyalty? “It’s the batter,” Reese said. “That’s all I’m going to say. It’s a secret.”

The store uses four commercial-grade frying machines, each capable of cooking 112 pieces of chicken per hour from 7 AM to 6:30 PM daily. Each one is drained of oil, cleaned, and refilled twice a day with peanut oil to guarantee a fresh, clean taste, and an end product that is much less greasy than many place’s fare.

“There’s little bit of a lull until around 4,” Bobby Hill, the store’s head fry cook and manager of all things chicken-related, said. “Then people start coming in to pick up supper . . . I’ve been frying chicken since Day 1,” he went on to say. “When I came in for the job interview, they told me, ‘We sell a lot of chicken. Don’t let the chicken whoop you.’ I said, ‘No, I’m going to whoop that chicken.’ That first day, I couldn’t believe it. I came here from Flint, Michigan. People like fried chicken there, and I guess people everywhere like fried chicken. But it’s not like what it is here. It’s amazing.”

The store is well-equipped to handle unusually large orders, though they suggest that you call well in advance for the really big ones: “If you’re going to make a big order like 800 pieces, you better do it about a week ahead of time because the order book fills up pretty quick,” Hill said.  “If somebody walks in and orders 100 pieces, we tell them, ‘Sure, we can do that, but you might have to wait 10 or 15 minutes,'” Hill said. “I bet if you walk into one of those fried chicken order places and tried to order 100 pieces, they’d tell you you’re crazy.”

The display case is piled high with freshly fried chicken by 8 am each morning at Food Giant in Columbus – Photo by Deanna Robinson – Dispatch Staff

“Sunday is our biggest day,” Reese said. “We’ll have people lined up all the way to the back of the store. People don’t mind waiting.”

Food Giant, an employee-owned company, operates more than 100 stores across the Southern U.S., under names including Food Giant, Piggly Wiggly, Cost Plus, Pick ‘n Save, Market Place, Sureway and Mad Butcher. Their workers and managers are all allowed the opportunity to purchase stock in their own store, which tends to lead to a sense of pride in their store, and a personal investment in its success. This means that more of the money made literally stays right here in Columbus, in the hands of the people who work hardest to keep it running smoothly – and THAT’S Good for Business!

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Local Entrepreneurs Picking Up Steam

Local Entrepreneurs Picking Up Steam

COLUMBUS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

MUW played host to a small business seminar Tuesday night, that was put on by BancorpSouth and the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce. The hall was packed with people young and old who wished to learn more about how to go about starting up their own small businesses.

“The majority (who attended) were people who were just thinking about (starting a business) or have ideas to do it and needed to know where to start,” said Emily McConnell, director of programs and events at the CoC. “The seminar was great for that, just in encouraging them to do it, to get out there and try.”

Mary Jennifer Russell (courtesy photo)

One of the featured speakers was Mary Jennifer Russell of New Albany. In 1997, she had been moving from job to job while dabbling in baking on the side, as a way to bring in supplemental income. She gradually grew her business, and, a year after beginning, she had (what was then) her first major sale — ten cakes, sold to a yogurt shop. Fast forward nearly twenty years, and now Russell’s Sugarees Bakery puts out a thousand cakes a week, while employing 37 people. Her story has been featured in publications such as the New York Times and Oprah’s Magazine, and Russel earned her place as this year’s Mississippi Small Business Administration (SBA) Small Business Person of the Year.

She had this advice to give to people just starting out: “What do you want to see?” she said. “What do you want to smell? Really, really envision it with lots of detail.” She also emphasized the need to keep good books, constantly improving the business even after it’s up and running and – in particular – making sure to take good care of good employees.

Russell went on to offer this piece of advice: “It’s easy enough if you start with low-risk,” she said. “…It can be done. It should be done.” She recommends keeping your old job for as many years as it takes to get the new venture to a profitable stage; it took her four years to do so, herself, resulting in her opening her own dedicated shop after proving that her business concept was viable simply by doing exactly what she set out to do.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy – The more of them we have, the more people who are willing to take on that risk – The more success stories we’ll hear, given time, investment, and a lot of hard work. And that’s Good for Business!

You can read the full article by clicking here.

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Infinity Megasite Could Be an Excellent Car Plant Location, Says GTR LINK

Infinity Megasite Could Be an Excellent Car Plant Location, Says GTR LINK

Courtesy of The Dispatch

Toyota and Mazda announced just a few weeks ago that they are  looking and a number of sites nationwide to build a joint auto production plant. Our own Joe Max Higgins says that the recently-set up Infinity Megasite (IMS) right here in the Golden Triangle is the best candidate within the State of Mississippi for such a project. The IMS now controls 1,444 acres of the Golden Triangle Industrial Aerospace Park on Hwy 82 west of Columbus: “We believe that if Mississippi’s putting its best foot forward, we’re probably the first pick,” Higgins said.

Joe Max Higgins, left, and Harry Sanders

While the proposed plant is still in its very earliest days of consideration, Bloomberg seems to agree saying that the IMS could very well be one of the top few candidates for the $1.6 billion project, which is expected to bring roughly 4,000 jobs to the general area.

“Understand this –Toyota’s not an unknown commodity,” Higgins said. “. . .If Toyota knocks on your door, you open it and you offer them some coffee, some Coke, some pastries if you got them and you say ‘What can I do for you?'”

Lowndes BoS  President Harry Sanders said that, “The thing about it is, think what it would do for Lowndes County and this portion of the Golden Triangle, with all the high-quality jobs. I think it would be great to get an automotive industry here.”

“In Mississippi, look at the battles that have been won,” Higgins said. “If we roll the clock back 20 years, most people would tell you there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell Mississippi could get a car plant. But in 15, 16 years we’ve gotten two (Nissan in Canton, Toyota in Blue Springs). I think that’s a good testament to the state of Mississippi. Could we support a third one? Yeah, I think we could.”

He also stated his confidence in the region’s ability to meet the potential plant’s needs, and that its proximity to MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, could also be a major factor in any decision to be made: “Everybody wants to sell that their workforce can be retrained to make steel, or retrained to make cars or retrained to make tires,” Higgins said. “I don’t think most communities are selling that 20-, 30- and 40-year sustainable workforce. See, I’m not worried about where I’m getting my initial tranche of people to run my plant. These plants are worried about who’s gonna be running that son of a gun in 10, 15, or 20 or 40 years.”

 

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New Terry Brown Amphitheater Phase 1 Done, Usable for Free Events. Phase 2 Next Up

New Terry Brown Amphitheater Phase 1 Done, Usable for Free Events. Phase 2 Next Up

Columbus, MS – The Dispatch

The Terry Brown Amphitheater (Phase I) on the Westbank of the river

The new Terry Brown Amphitheater, located on the west bank of the river, as part of the Columbus Riverwalk, has completed Phase 1 of its construction, and they’re ready for Phase 2 to begin as soon as funding can be raised. The work thus far has cost about $3 million, and another $2.5 million or so is being called for in order to finish everything up.

City Engineer Kevin Stafford said that going over the usual list of making sure every little thing works properly is all that needs to be done before formally turning over the keys to the City itself: “We’ll be testing all the systems next week to make sure everything’s ready to go,” Stafford said. “What you have is basically the same thing as across the river (an existing outdoor stage under the Old Highway 82 bridge with grass seating). It’s just bigger, less likely to flood and is fully ADA accessible.”

Once these tests and inspections are all done, the amphitheater facility will be usable for free events; once everything else is done (such as fencing, ticketing, permanent restrooms, etc), it will be usable for private and paid events, as well. Stafford says that, once funding is secured, “I would estimate it would take about nine months, start to finish.” All of the physical infrastructure and groundwork is in place already.

“It’s a great facility,” said Barbara Bigelow, director of Main Street Columbus. “At this point, I haven’t discussed how we might use it. Sounds of Summer could certainly be held there, but people love where it is now, so I’m not sure my board would want to move. But I do think there is a lot of potential for the new facility. It’s another attraction for our downtown and we’re excited to see what happens there.”

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MSU and EMCC Working Together to Take Advantage of $3.11 Million Grant for Cybersecurity Scholarship

MSU and EMCC Working Together to Take Advantage of $3.11 Million Grant for Cybersecurity Scholarship

STARKVILLE, Miss.— Courtesy of EMCC

MSU and EMCC are joining forces to help educate highly-qualified students about cybersecurity, thanks to a $3.11 million grant from the National Science Foundation. MSU will be awarding two dozen of these highly-competitive scholarships to both their own students, and to a select few EMCC students who will be continuing their study in the field at MSU after graduating from EMCC. The end goal is to prepare these students with a thorough grounding in their chosen field, so that they may work as cybersecurity government experts as soon as possible after graduation.

“Mississippi State is a national leader in training top cybersecurity professionals, many of whom are on the front lines today fighting wide-ranging cyber threats in the private and public sectors, including very significant challenges to our national security,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “This grant will enable MSU, in partnership with EMCC, to further strengthen these important efforts.” “Mississippi State is a national leader in training top cybersecurity professionals, many of whom are on the front lines today fighting wide-ranging cyber threats in the private and public sectors, including very significant challenges to our national security,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “This grant will enable MSU, in partnership with EMCC, to further strengthen these important efforts.”

“These dollars will open doors for many outstanding students to seek education and employment in the expanding and vitally important field of cybersecurity,” EMCC President Thomas M. Huebner said. “We could not be more pleased than to partner with MSU and believe it will pay dividends for our students, the industries we serve, and the state of Mississippi.”

MSU is among the nation’s most prolific in terms of CyberCorps students, and the school has also been the source of over 70 peer-reviewed publications on the subject.

Please click here for the full article.

For more on the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program, visit http://web.cse.msstate.edu/~hamilton/SFS/.

MSU : www.msstate.edu.

 

 

 

 

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Enterprising Local Businessman Making a Living Reselling Old Housing Materials

 

Enterprising Local Businessman Making a Living Reselling Old Housing Materials

COLUMBUS – The Dispatch

Columbus native Jacob Parnell has be running a successful business for the past three years that purchases unwanted, reclaimed constructions materials from older demolished houses and resells them to interested buyers. Things such as timbers from as little as a century ago, bricks, and other handcrafted bits and pieces, etc.,  have all proven very popular: “I’ve got stuff spread around all over the place,” he said.

Parnell went on to say that he hopes to move to a larger warehouse facility in a year or so.

Jacob Parnell of Mississippi Reclaimed (courtesy photo)

Others have also followed in his footsteps, albeit on a smaller scale. Kathy Arinder, director of the Columbus-Lowndes Habitat for Humanity, did so earlier this year. The owner of a large 1880’s-era house on 7th Street donated it to Habitat; Arinder and the Habitat board decided to salvage the house and resell the usable materials at their Gardner Ave location; it took about three months to complete the salvage operation.

Arinder said the store had sold the last of the material earlier this month: “I knew this stuff would be popular,” she said. “But I had no idea how popular it really was. It just flew out of our store.”

Pannell was one of the major buyers from this reclamation: “I bought quite a lot of their stuff,” he said.

He explained how he got started: “My mom had an old brick building that was falling apart,” Pannell said. “I knew that the bricks could be resold. So I tore the building down, salvaged what I could.”

He went on to explain that getting materials isn’t all that hard in the area, but that transporting them is very expensive. As a result, he has switched from an all-in-one service (demolition, hauling off, etc) to one where he simply buys and resells the materials.

His website can be found at mississippireclaimed.com.

For the full article, click here

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