Plans for a Step in the Right Direction

The Marion County Development Partnership was proud to recognize the Marion County Mississippi Scholars and Tech Masters students last week during the annual program at the Columbia Water Park.

The Mississippi Scholars program stresses STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses and college preparation for students who are looking to continue their education toward a field that requires further formal education. The Tech Masters program is one in which technical courses are required in a similarly rigorous program for students who wish to begin a career immediately after graduation by applying workforce readiness they develop in high school.

Since the local Mississippi Scholars program began, the number of scholars completing the required work has doubled. In 2010, 36 students completed the tough requirements. This year 72 students achieved Mississippi Scholar status.

Last year was the inaugural year for the Tech Masters program which 27 local students completed. The 2016 Tech Masters program recognized 32 students for achieving the requirements for the designation.

At last week’s event, a total of 104 local students were recognized and were given chances to win one of 10 scholarships which together totaled more than $102,000.

This program was initiated by the Mississippi Economic Council in efforts to encourage students to make conscious decisions during their high school careers about what their future will hold and to plan for successful careers. At the beginning of their high school years, the students are presented with the information about what will be required to complete the program and they must stick to the plan in order to achieve the status.

That’s a good lesson for all of us and one around which well-known adages have been preserved:

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight Eisenhower

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” George S. Patton

“Planning is a process of choosing among those many options. If we do not choose to plan, then we choose to have others plan for us.” Richard I. Winwood

“Long-range planning does not deal with the future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.” Peter Drucker
Plans are essential to achieving goals, just as blue-prints are essential to building a house. That doesn’t mean plans and paths can’t be revised, altered and re-drawn to accommodate new information, a change in tastes, a road block on a particular path or a needed change in strategy. Whether the goal envisioned is for personal achievement, the success of a business or the transformation and progression of a community, what the plan does is give direction to the first step toward a dream.



In late January, Columbia/Marion County again showed its heart for improving the community when its citizens made ours the largest per capita attendance of the Mississippi Economic Council Pacesetter tour. MEC President and CEO Blake Wilson was astounded at the turnout. It was another example of local residents coming together for an important purpose, answering the call to convene to help our community give a great impression!

Wilson mentioned the importance of this coming together in his presentation. He said, “The Partnership (Marion County Development Partnership) is a convener. Having a place to convene…where you can come together…whenever there is an issue and whenever there is an opportunity is good.”

I thought this was a great expression of what the MCDP is about. In an effort to express that the MCDP is about bringing businesses and people together to come to a consensus action for the betterment of our community, we often stress that it’s a “partnership”… a partnership of the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development District with business owners, citizens, elected officials and a professional staff all coming together to strive for a more prosperous, vibrant and resilient Marion County. But I think the word “convener” may spread some more light on some of what we do as your Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development District. offers this definition of “convene: to cause to come together, usually for an official or public purpose.” Another source says “to arrange a meeting of people or groups for a serious purpose.”

Whether we are convening new industrial prospects with local officials, local business owners to discuss new opportunities for their businesses, MCDP members businesses to network and improve their business performance, or volunteers from schools, businesses, garden clubs and other organizations who want to complete a project or program to contribute to improving the quality of life for us all, we do spend a significant amount of time working to convene with members of our community or prospective ones for official, public or serious purposes.

And that convening is good. It is good to bring people from different influencing groups together to share in the work toward that prosperous, vibrant and resilient community, to share in the important purpose. And there is always work to do. So come join us, convene with us. Check out more information on our website at, call our office at 601-736-6385, or drop by to visit us at 412 Courthouse Square and find out how to join in being a convener.

Columbia Boasts More Top 100 Mississippi Companies

MCDP is proud to congratulate several of our local businesses who claimed spots in Mississippi’s Top 100 Business List published by the Mississippi Business Journal last week.SouthernTire

Marion County based businesses placed as follows:

#9 Southern Tire Mart

#26 Dixie Mat and Hardwood Company

#34 T.L. Wallace Construction, Inc.DixieMat

#88 Forest Products Transports, LLCTLWallaceForestProducts

Mississippi’s top companies tend to cluster around the Jackson metropolitan area and to a lesser degree along the Gulf Coast. Columbia is the only town outside those areas with a population under 10,000 to boast more than one of the premier companies, surpassing larger communities like Oxford, Columbus, Tupelo and Laurel.

Think about this. Columbia’s population is 6,582. This means that we boast one Top 100 company for every 1,641 residents. When comparing other Pine Belt cities we find Hattiesburg with 1 per every 9,198 residents (5 total) and Laurel with 1 per every 6,180 residents (3 total). Even comparing statewide with other cities, only Ridgeland stacks up fewer residents against each of its top companies with 1,603.

For me, this is evidence that the atmosphere in Marion County is great for growing companies. It says to me that our people work hard to improve their economic standing which translates into excellence at the companies where they work. It tells me that Columbia is an extraordinary place, a small town mixed with a progressive entrepreneurial spirit which make it an exceptional place to live and work.

We also congratulate other companies who made the list who have offices in our community but are not headquartered here.

Farm Bureau Insurance # 2

C Spire # 11

RPM Pizza #31

SouthGroup Insurance #33

Hattiesburg Clinic # 35

State Bank and Trust # 85

All American Check Cashing # 90


While MCDP works to promote and support every Marion County business and celebrates them all, this week we offer special congratulations to those who have been recognized at the state level for their successes.


Columbia’s Crown Health Care Expands – Adding Jobs!

Crown Health Care Laundry recently announced an expansion of its Columbia facility.  An additional 50 jobs will be added in the coming months.

See the story in The Columbian-Progress here – Crown Health Care Laundry Expansion

Columbia’s Story

The first installment of the MCDP bi-weekly column in The Columbian Progress as printed in the Thursday, September 10 edition.

Don’t you love a great story?  I do.  Our state has produced some really great storytellers, as well as some pretty inspiring stories.

Pud Stringer speaks to MCDP's Catchy Friday.

Pud Stringer speaks to MCDP’s Catchy Friday.

Last month Marion County Farm Bureau President Pud Stringer spoke at the MCDP Catchy Friday.  He relayed the same story I had the opportunity to tell last week as a visiting panelist for an economic development class at USM’s Trent Lott Center.  It’s a story about opportunity, about economic development, about community working together for the good of the whole and it’s OUR story because it’s OUR history, Columbia’s Story and it’s an inspiring one.

Back in 1929, Hugh White was Mayor of Columbia.  It was before he became governor of Mississippi and gained statewide and national acclaim.  He had built a great timber business in Marion County but he looked around and saw that there were very few trees left standing.  It caused him to wonder what would happen to all those folks who were working to fell, transport, mill, and saw up all that lumber.  Where would they find jobs to continue to support their families when there wasn’t enough timber to support the economic boom the area had known?

White hatched a plan and he got some people to help. He knew just who to ask because back before White had even moved to Columbia, a group of people had joined forces to assist in just this sort of problem.  The Commercial Club of Columbia had been formed in 1906.  This was a Chamber of Commerce organization, a group of businesspeople who joined together to work to develop Columbia’s business climate.

White had previously worked with the CCC.  He was part of the group.  He had seen their success when in 1917 businessmen in the  Commercial Club had amassed 3000 acres and had donated $50,000 (equivalent to $1,000,000 in today’s dollars) to attract the Industrial Training School to the community. He had worked with them when in 1922 they became known as the Marion County Chamber of Commerce. He knew firsthand that they wanted to create opportunities for the people of the community.

So together they hatched a plan and Mayor White pitched it to the people.  He called a huge town meeting and asked everyone to contribute to a fund to help build a new factory building for a company who had agreed to move to Columbia.  And that is just what happened.  The town built the building and put together training for the work force for Reliance Manufacturing.  The company came to town and put people to work.

Architect's drawing of the new Reliance Manufacturing Plant for Columbia in 1932.

Architect’s drawing of the new Reliance Manufacturing Plant for Columbia in 1932.

White and Chamber of Commerce attracted more manufacturing to town using this approach. In fact, during the early years of the Great Depression, they were so successful at creating opportunities for the citizens of Marion County that the County’s sales tax receipts were going up 25% while the rest of the state’s fell by 30%.  White and other business leaders began to travel the country telling other communities about the success their community

Reliance Manufacturing opened in Columbia during the Depression years.

Reliance Manufacturing opened in Columbia during the Depression years.

was seeing with its “Columbia Plan.”

These successes paved the way for Mayor White to become Governor White.  He spread the Columbia Plan across Mississippi as Balance Agriculture With Industry and the state became known as “America’s No. 1 Opportunity!”

When White saw that hard times were coming, he did not develop a hoarder mentality, attempting to protect his wealth through the misfortune of others.  He realized that if more people had more opportunity to build a better life, ultimately that would mean things would be better for his business as well.

The results of White’s story are still felt in Columbia today.  Reliance Manufacturing is now known as Pioneer Aerospace.  The Chamber of Commerce became the Marion County Development Partnership and the White’s attitude of seeking opportunity for the whole county inspires us daily at the MCDP to pursue more opportunities for the people of our community…opportunities for business growth, for a new job, for increasing business know-how, for getting a better education, for giving back to the community.

We hope it inspires you, too.  Email us at or call us at 601-736-6385 to get more info about how you can join with nearly 300 other local businesses, so that together we can keep working to create opportunities.

New Businesses! Recovering Businesses! Expanding Businesses!

New Business- Columbia Health and Rehab - Ribbon Cutting July 14, 2015

New Business Grand Opening- Columbia Rehabilitation – July 14, 2015

MCDP is proud to support and celebrate Marion County and Columbia businesses!  In 2015 local businesses have cut ribbons to celebrate their new businesses, their re-openings following the rebuilding after the December tornado and expansions or new locations that had been planned all along.

Below we share these celebrations and encourage you to shop Marion County businesses!


Xclusive Boutique – New Business Grand Opening- August 10, 2015


Re-opening Celebration - Walgreens - Ribbon cutting February 13, 2015

Re-opening Celebration – Walgreens – February 13, 2015


New Location Celebration - C Spire - Ribbon cutting June 10, 2015

New Location Celebration – C Spire – June 10, 2015





New Business - A Southern Yankee, April 10, 2015

New Business Grand Opening – A Southern Yankee, April 10, 2015


Re-opening Celebration - Barrett's Garden Center - June 26, 2015

Re-opening Celebration – Barrett’s Garden Center – June 26, 2015


1st Year Anniversary Celebration- Bogie's - July 15, 2015

1st Year Anniversary Celebration- Bogie’s – July 15, 2015

MCDP Fall Webinar Series Announced

A webinar series to provide information and training for many different types of business owners and managers has been set to launch on the second Thursday of September (Sept. 10).  Sponsored by MCDP and offered to MCDP members free of charge and to non-members for the low cost of $5.  These webinars will address topics such as “Business Branding Online,” “Exploiting Google Tools,” “Online Management and Event Planning Tools,” and “Facebook Ads.”

The webinars will be led by internet marketing experts from the Mississippi State University Extension Service.  Lunch will be served.

For more information, check out the events calendar and watch for announcements in the MCDP newsletters.

Here’s how we’re doing! – MCDP Results Report

MCDP recently released some figures showing some of the organizations results over the past five years.  Click the following link to see the info which appears in the Milestones Magazine, published by The Columbian Progress.

2015 MCDP Milestones FP (00000002)

Columbia makes “Best Town to Raise a Family” ranks

Columbia was recently named just below the list-topper Amory on the Best Town to Raise a Family in Mississippi list as published by Niche Rankings.  Ranking above PineBelt neighbors, Hattiesburg, Picayune, Laurel and McComb, Columbia also topped coastal towns of Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula.

Learn more about how the towns were chosen and see how Columbia ranked in each of the categories at

Niche Rankings for Best Towns to Raise a Family in Mississippi

Quality Manufacturing Invests in Labor Force Education

Quality Manufacturing helped the Carl Loftin Career and Technology Center build new welding stations for better and more complete training for students entering the workforce.  See more of the story from The Columbian-Progress by clicking the link below.

Quality Manufacturing Donates to Carl Loftin Career Center