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Mississippi State University selects Ocean Springs Chamber to showcase tourism development to rural

Mississippi State University selects Ocean Springs Chamber to showcase tourism development to rural areas
(Ocean Springs, MS0 - MSU Extension Service is working on a toolkit for best management practices for community development and tourism development. The toolkit will have a video/ digital component so that the information will be more accessible to those that need it. MSU chose to spotlight Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce-Main Street-Tourism Bureau as an excellent example of how to both methodically create sustainable community development, and then to establish the community as a tourism destination. The Chamber’s examples of digital marketing will show those in rural areas how to use new technology to bring tourists to their communities on limited budgets.
The team from Mississippi State University visited with director Margaret Miller and public relations and events manager Cynthia Sutton and toured town in May.  The team had a chance to take part in the Taste of Ocean Springs Food & Wine Festival and learn about some of the social media efforts used through the festivals.
The toolkit will be made available to Main Street managers, city and county officials and others as examples of how to create a sustainable, successful community.
For more information on this project, contact the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce-Main Street-Tourism Bureau at 228-875-4424.


Senatobia recognized by 2015 Playful City USA program

Senatobia recognized by 2015 Playful City USA program
241 communities to be recognized as part of program
Senatobia, Miss. (June 17, 2015) - The City of Senatobia is being honored with a 2015 Playful City USA designation for the fifth straight year.  The national recognition program honors cities and towns across the country for making their cities more playable.
Penny Hawks Frazier, City Alderman, EDF Board Member and Chair of Senatobia Main Street, said "This is our fifth year to be recognized, and it's an honor to be chosen again. Being a part of this group, having this designation, opens doors for grant opportunities and provides positive visibility for Senatobia."
Hopscotch sidewalks, structured recess programs, mandated neighborhood play spaces, city-wide play days and mobile recreation vehicles are all ways in which these communities are appealing to residents nationwide, and attracting and retaining residents in many types of neighborhoods.
"Playability is crucial to the success of our future communities, and we are proud of the work these cities and leaders are doing to provide a better quality of life for all residents, and especially families," says KaBOOM! President James Siegal. "Play provides a competitive advantage for cities looking to attract and retain residents. With these esteemed leaders, and our friends and partners across the country, we continue to prioritize play for all kids."
The City of Senatobia has recently adopted a plan to build a $5 million addition to its primary sports complex. Alan Callicott, Mayor of Senatobia, stated that "The renewed Playful City USA designation is validation for a historical commitment to recreational facilities in our town, particularly with the resurgence of corporate sponsorship and volunteerism for building playgrounds the last several years. What's even more exciting is the new commitment we've just made to create a first-class environment with our sports complex, which will be enjoyed for many years, both by our young people and by those we attract from other places."
To learn more about these cities, see the full list of the 241 communities named 2015 Playful City USA honorees, or to gather more information on the Playful City USA program, visit We also encourage you to take part in the conversation on #playability with these thought leaders on Twitter and Facebook.


Laurel Main Street growing economically

Laurel Main Street growing economically

By Vanessa Pacheco



Chad Knight, owner of The Knight Butcher. Chad Knight, owner of The Knight Butcher.


Laurel Main Street is continuing to grow economically. The downtown area has attracted several entrepreneurs in the past month.

On Central Avenue, The Knight Butcher recently had its grand opening.

“We're bringing back the old school feel of a butcher shop, old time butcher shop, to where you come in and you get exactly what you would like cut,” said owner Chad Knight.

Chad and his wife, Terri, provide fresh meat, jerky and also a little sugar with their homemade fudge.

“It's been pretty awesome, pretty overwhelming, but you know I can't complain,” Knight said.

Also on Central Avenue is Laurel's first Welcome Center. The center made its home at the old First National Bank and also had its grand opening the same day as The Knight Butcher.

The Welcome Center provides visitors with brochures and information about the city and much more. Upstairs, there are a few more businesses that have decided to call downtown home.

Jones Toffee Co. has a kitchen there where it makes its own products. The company just launched its online store where all its toffees are sold. Also in the same building is Black Horn Productions.

“We do everything from photography to video, creative directing, programming (and) anything in the creative arts we can do,” said owner Brandon Davis.

Just like Knight, Davis also grew up in Laurel. Both moved back to their hometown and said they are happy to be part of the city's growth.

“I believe in Laurel, I believe in the community and the people love Laurel and I really, really wanted to help them get to the next level in those areas,” Davis said.


Crowdfunding to kickstart Mississippi businesses

Hosemann banks on crowdfunding to kickstart Mississippi businesses

By Jeff Byrd


   Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann wants to help would-be entrepreneurs through a new program from his office called Invest Mississippi Crowdfunding.

    Hosemann's office defines crowdfunding as a way businesses can raise capital by requesting and accepting small monetary amounts from a large number of people. In other words, a "crowd" of people helps to fund the business or project. The crowdfunding method has become more popular because it can be done over the Internet.

    Hosemann said three years ago the federal government passed a jobs act that allowed Internet fundraising, which would be regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission. Since the law has been enacted, there have been no regulations set forth by the SEC, he said.

    "This is why I started to look at crowdfunding, myself," Hosemann said. "It's Internet financing. For small businesses in Mississippi, we have a huge amount of intellectual property and not as much capital. So many of these places, they don't have access to capital because their daddies are not the president of the bank. So it's hard for them to raise dollars."

    Hosemann used a personal example of how he wanted to buy some property with a loan from the bank and was asked how much did the lot cost and how much did he want to borrow.

    "I said it cost $24,000, and they asked, 'How much do you need?' I said, '$24,000," Hosemann said. "So many Mississippians with good ideas need access to capital. The banking industry is exceptionally strong in Mississippi, but they get penalized for making loans when there isn't capital or cash flow behind it. And then the Feds rank them down because of the Dodd-Frank regulations."

    Hosemann said he wanted to address those problems and he found crowdfunding can be a solution.

    "It's a way to fiance a start-up until you get up and running," Hosemann said. "In Mississippi, we don't wait on the federal government's verification, and I didn't wait on them either. So our Legislature gave me the right as the Secretary of State to write the regulations for crowdfunding in Mississippi, effective a week ago last Friday."

    Hosemann said the regulations are different than others in the United States. Invest Mississippi Crowdfunding is just one of a handful that are available for would-be business owners, said Meridian Main Street Executive Director Karen Rooney.

    "We did a webinar series on crowdfunding back in March ,which was produced by the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi State University Extension Service," Rooney said. "We learned about the practice for funding a project by raising money online through a large number of people. But the program we used was called It is completely independent from other forms of crowdfunding."

    Rooney submitted some facts about crowdfunding in Mississippi. In 2014, there were 220 projects that were applied for with 17 percent gaining funding. The average amount raised was $9,556 with an average of 26 backers. In the United States, 90,889 projects applied in 2014 with 27 percent funded. The average amount raised was $20,348, with an average of 77 backers.

    Pamela Weaver, director of communications for the Secretary of State's office, said there are two types of Internet crowdfunding.

    The first is equity crowdfunding where a would-be owner raises capital by accepting investments of small monetary amounts. In exchange the investors will receive an equity interest in the business based on the amount of investment, Weaver said. This exchange equity is considered a security and is subject to state and federal securities laws.

    "We have a designated web portal that has been registered with the Secretary of State at," Weaver said.

    "The second is donation crowdfunding and this where you contribute basically because you support the platform," Weaver said. "For this, they would use Kickstarter or Go Fund Me."

    Rooney used the example of two Mississippi companies that received funding through donation crowdfunding through Kickstarter. They included Beaverdam Fresh Farms and Natchez Brewing Company.

    Rooney said Beaverdam was able to raise $30,000 from 307 backers in 35 days. Natchez Brewing raised $10,000 in 21 days from 74 backers.

    Hosemann said he sees his new web portal and equity crowdfunding as a way of the future for investment and raising of capital in Mississippi.

    "It's all happening and while you are sitting at a computer, you can raise money for your small business," Hosemann said. "Of that money, 85 percent has to be spent in Mississippi, but you can raise it from anywhere in the world that has access to capital. So, I think that's where we are headed. I'm real interested in seeing how this goes."

    One of the chief advantages Hosemann cites for equity crowdfunding will be the use of Mississippi banks and a simplified list of rules.

    "We want to know what your business plan is, what you're finances are like, have you been convicted of a felony, just normal questions," Hosemann said. "Once you have completed those requirements, we want you to open an escrow account in a Mississippi bank. You will be able to raise up to 50 percent. When you raise the 50 percent, the bank cuts you a check and you can get started.     

    "That's a protection so somebody doesn't just raise a little bit of money and then takes off with it. The other protection is we limit contributions to 5 percent of your annual income if your net worth is less than a $1 million."

    Hosemann said net worths of $1million to $5 million would allow the prospective owner to accept up to $50,000 during one, 12-month period. If an owner has $5 million or more in net worth, they can raise unlimited funds.

    "This is gonna allow people who never have had access to capital for whatever reason to have access to capital then test the waters to see if it's a good idea or not without borrowing money and going bankrupt or losing their house or whatever," Hosemann said.

    Hosesmann said there is no filing fee in Mississippi.

    "It's the lowest in the nation," he said. "This process is the best in the country. Mississippi is clearly in the forefront of raising money digitally over the Internet. There is no heritage requirement on this. It's aimed at starting small businesses and set up so they can raise $200,000 to $400,000 to start their business. And it gives them a banking relationship with a bank. The bank can make them a loan once they have capital. You bridge that gap between zero and having sufficient capital to get a loan."


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