Thursday, June 28, 2007
Buck, Minor focus on progress
By SUE WATSON
The Byhalia Chamber of Commerce quarterly meeting June 14 was well attended by the public and candidates running for local and state offices.
A barbecue luncheon plate and banana pudding dessert were served, compliments of four of the local delegates - Rep. Tommy Woods, Sen. Ralph Doxey, Rep. Kelvin Buck and highway commissioner Bill Minor.
Flag Day was the backdrop for the meeting. Airman 1st Class Chad Minor led the Pledge of Allegiance, children with Kid’s World Daycare in Byhalia sang “America” and the chamber’s Blaine Tooley read a poem on the meaning of the flag and the need to support her.
The meeting provided an opportunity for citizens to meet with many candidates for local election.
Sarah Sawyer, executive director of the chamber, read the names of the board of directors and the part-time staff and thanked them for all they do for the chamber which now has grown to a membership of over 300. The goal for new members for the year is 50, she said.
Liddy’s Health Mart won the sustained member drawing. Sustaining members pay 50 percent more than the regular dues. Sawyer said these dues plus 20 Champion Sponsors, go above and beyond to support chamber activities.
“We are small but we want to keep growing,” Sawyer said. “We have a lot of growing pains.”
The chamber does a lot with its one-day-a-week part-time staff, she added.
Sawyer announced the chamber will organize an ambassadors program to improve communication between current and new members. She also called for volunteers to help organize a golf committee. The first meeting to work on the project is set for Wednesday, June 2, at the Whistle Stop. Call the chamber for more details.
Businesses are encouraged to take some of the new Marshall County brochures to display and distribute to customers. New Byhalia maps are also now available as well as brochures at the chamber office.
The Marshall County LeadershipPlenty Class of 2007 is set to graduate at Wall Doxey State Park on Thursday, June 28. Recruitment for membership in the class of 2008 will begin at the meeting.
Sawyer said the 2008 class will be recruited from all ages, races and gender in order to obtain a more diverse group of participants.
Rep. Kelvin Buck and Mississippi Department of Transportation Commissioner Bill Minor gave speeches at the luncheon. Sen. Ralph Doxey was unable to attend and Rep. Tommy Woods used his time to introduce the speakers.
Buck applauded the friendship and camaraderie and spirit of cooperation enjoyed by the representatives and senator from the local district and the cooperation among local officials as well.
He said communication and partnership between business and government helps communities move forward - that the county is moving in the right direction with emphasis on workforce training and improving education.
“The best thing we can do is to continue to work together, and I think we will be fine just five or 10 years down the road,” he said.
Minor provided an overview of five main areas MDOT oversees - rail, airport and busing, weight, public service and the highway patrol.
MDOT’s highway litter collection program with Mississippi Department of Corrections is helping local communities keep litter under control, he said.
But it is the highway bill of 1985 that primed Mississippi for the economic development it is enjoying today with big companies like Nissan and Toyota choosing the Magnolia state, Minor said.
Cost of road construction has increased to where MDOT can do only half as much road construction as it did in 1987, he said. A single intersection can run as high as $30 million or $40 million today.
Minor said Toyota’s decision to build an assembly plant in north Mississippi will improve the economy for the state’s residents.
Getting a highway like Highway 78 designated as an Interstate (I-22) pulls in federal dollars to improve highways, Minor said. States have to pay only 10 percent of the construction costs. Mississippi capitalized on the federal program by constructing new Highway 304 with federal dollars after the highway was put on the I-69 project.
Minor said two things are key to economic development - transportation and education.
Rep. Woods added to Minor’s comments.
“Mississippi is changing so rapidly,” he said. “We’re on the cutting edge of so many things and so much of this is due to leadership in Mississippi.”
He applauded the leadership at MDOT and at the governor’s office.
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