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No Place like Home

Group aims to retain young professionals

Game on

In Good Tune

State Games benefit economy & community

Variety and venues spring from deep musical roots

2013-14 | sponsored by East Mississippi Business Development Corporation

ONLINE | Index


MORE ON Meridian Go to the links below for more articles and photos about Meridian’s business climate, recreation, food, schools, health care, culture and more. TOP EMPLOYERS business DEMOGRAPHICS facts

Looking for a reason to get outdoors? Learn about recreation options for all ages at ms/activities

SCHOOLS schools HEALTH CARE health



Natural Beauty See Dunn’s Falls Water Park and more great images from around Meridian. meridian/ms/photos-videos

2013-14 edition

volume 4

meridian mississippi Content Director | Lisa Battles Contributing Writers | Barbara Biehler, Nancy Mann Jackson, John McBryde, Melissa McDonald, Joe Morris Content Coordinator | Jessica Walker Boehm Staff Writer | Kevin Litwin Proofreading Manager | Raven Petty Lead Designer | Matt West Senior Graphic Designers | Stacey Allis, Laura Gallagher, Kris Sexton, Jake Shores Graphic Designers | Jackie Ciulla, Kacey Passmore Creative Technology Analyst | Becca Ary Lead Photographer | Michael Conti Senior Photographers | Jeff Adkins, Brian McCord Staff Photographers | Wendy Jo O’Barr, Frank Ordonez Color Imaging Technician | Alison Hunter Integrated Media Manager | Zach White Sales Support Project Manager | Sara Quint Sales Support Coordinator | Christina Morgan Sales Graphic Designer | Rachel Lorance Ad Production Manager | Katie Middendorf Senior Graphic Designer | Vikki Williams Ad Traffic Assistants | Krystin Lemmon, Patricia Moisan Web Project Manager | David Day Digital Project Manager | Jill Ridenour Digital Products Designer | Erica Lampley Web Developer I | Nels Noseworthy Web Designer II | Richard Stevens Web Product Manager | John Hood Chairman | Greg Thurman President/Publisher | Bob Schwartzman Executive Vice President | Ray Langen Senior V.P./Sales | Todd Potter, Jarek Swekosky Senior V.P./Client Development | Jeff Heefner Senior V.P./Operations | Casey Hester V.P./Content Operations | Natasha Lorens Audience Development Director | Deanna Nelson Creative Services Director | Christina Carden Distribution Director | Gary Smith Photography Director | Jeffrey S. Otto Web Services Director | Allison Davis Controller | Chris Dudley Senior Accountant | Lisa Owens Accounts Payable Coordinator | Maria McFarland Accounts Receivable Coordinator | Diana Iafrate IT Director | Daniel Cantrell Executive Secretary | Kristy Giles Human Resources Manager | Peggy Blake


Livability Meridian, Mississippi is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed through the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation and its member businesses. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by email at For more information, contact: East Mississippi Business Development Corporation 1901 Front Street, Suite A • Meridian, MS 39301 Phone: (601) 693-1306 • Fax: (601) 693-5638

Workforce Get more information about Naval Air Station Meridian at business

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Visit Livability Meridian, Mississippi online at ©Copyright 2013 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Member Member

The Association of Magazine Media Custom Content Council

Member East Mississippi Business Development Corporation


4 Welcome to Meridian

An introduction to the community

Things to Do 8 Live Music In Good Tune

Variety and venues spring from deep musical roots

12 Arts & Culture Gracing the Stage 14 Local Flavor Purveyors of Great Taste 2013 edition

volume 4

meridian mississippi

15 Sports & Recreation Game On


16 Education Track of Success 18 Health In Fine Health


21 Community Profile


22 Business Overview Invest and Rest 24 Working Here No Place Like Home


Group aims to retain young professionals

28 Entrepreneurship Right Place, Right Time

Meridian economy spells success for determined business owner

32 Chamber Letter Business Brewing

33 Economic Profile All or part of this magazine is printed with soy ink on recycled paper containing 10% post-consumer waste.

24 On The Cover Kayaking at Bonita Lakes Park Photo by Michael Conti

Please recycle this magazine

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At A Glance

Meridian, Mississippi A quick, comprehensive overview of what’s great about the community The Meridian area’s location and proximity to major transportation routes earn it the name “Strategic Center of the South,” important for business logistics but also applicable to its concentration of arts attractions, historic properties and health-care providers.




Meridian 20




20 45


11 59

East Mississippi

Location Lauderdale County is located in the North Central Hills region of Mississippi, on the Alabama border. Meridian is the county seat and principal city. Interstates 20 and 59 connect and pass through the county.


Lauderdale County


Time zone Central

Distances to three major cities nearby Birmingham, Ala., 154 miles Memphis, Tenn., 231 miles New Orleans, La., 202 miles

For More Information

East Mississippi Business Development Corporation 1901 Front Street, Suite A Meridian, MS 39301 Phone: (601) 693-1306 Fax: (601) 693-5638



annual rainfall


National Average: 30”

Accolade Meridian is known as The Strategic Center of the South.

Entertaining and Historic Meridian arts institutions, such as the MSU Riley Center and the Temple Theater, draw visitors for music, theater and other special events, as do well-supported community events such as the Threefoot Festival. The state also made its first entertainment district designation in Meridian, a status that incentivizes opening new and renovating existing entertainment business facilities. History gets its due in Meridian, too. The hometown of “The Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers welcomes his fans with a museum and annual festival, while architectural history lessons manifest in the preserved homes and buildings that are part of Meridian’s nine historic districts. Business Advantages The East Mississippi area allows easy access to two major interstates, three U.S. highways and four state highways, making it a magnet for employers and jobs drawing from a 65-mile radius in Mississippi and West Alabama. Besides Meridian Naval Air Station, the city’s largest employer, other strong sectors include manufacturing, distribution, retail and health care. Four hospitals employ thousands of residents, and a major mall, shopping centers, and a thriving downtown ensure a diverse economy. Read on to learn more about why Meridian is a great place to live and do business.

Take a Ride

Meridian’s beautifully restored Dentzel Carousel, originally designed in 1896, still operates in Highland Park and costs only 50 cents per ride.

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Things To Do Meridian’s must-do attractions, activities and dining

Traverse a Trail

Visit the 3,300-acre Bonita Lakes Park, which has approximately 20 miles of trails perfect for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The well-maintained, shady trails vary in length and terrain. The park’s location near three lakes, Long Creek Reservoir and Lakeview Golf Course allow easy access to outdoor fun.



Local Celebrities


Connect with history

Step Back in Time

Walk the Walk

Pick up movie memorabilia, roasted peanuts, bottled CocaCola and old-fashioned hoop cheese at the Causeyville General Store, or visit The SimmonsWright Company, a general store circa 1884, for groceries, farm supplies and antiques.

See stars honoring Mississippi Walk of Fame inductees along the area in front of the Mississippi State University Riley Center. The walk includes celebrities with Mississippi roots such as Morgan Freeman, Marty Stuart and B.B. King.

Brake for the Singing Brakeman

Learn about Meridian’s manufacturing history at the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum inside the Soulé Steam Feed Works site. The museum includes the last George W. Soulé built steam engine and hosts a festival every November.



Explore the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Museum to learn about this Meridian native known as “The Father of Country Music.” The museum includes memorabilia, musical instruments, trains and railroad equipment.

Things To Do

Take a Tour

Explore Merrehope, which dates to 1858 and is one of Meridian’s oldest homes. Confederate General Leonidas Polk used the home as a headquarters during the Civil War, and it now offers public tours and event space.



Food Festival


Pay Your Respects

Grab a Bite

Buy, Eat Local

Go for a Whirl

Visit Rose Hill Cemetery to see the final resting places of such historically significant people as Meridian founders Lewis A. Ragsdale and John T. Ball. Other popular grave sites belong to Emil and Kelly Mitchell, the first American Gypsy King and Queen.

Pull into The Depot Deli for a sandwich, pastry or daily special, such as chicken pasta salad or taco soup. Located downtown in Meridian’s Union Station, the restaurant serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.

Head to Earth’s Bounty Festival in downtown Meridian’s Singing Brakeman Park for farmfresh produce, baked goods, jams, jellies and other items. The event takes place on the first Saturday of the month from June to November.

Take a spin at Highland Park on the Dentzel Carousel, an 1896 carousel that is a National Landmark. Throughout the city, you’ll see painted horses that are part of Around Town Carousels Abound, a public art project benefiting Hope Village for Children.

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Things To Do

A Toe Tappin’ Good Time

Country music singer Moe Bandy opened the threeday 2013 Jimmie Rodgers Festival, which honors Meridian native and music legend Jimmie Rodgers.



In Good


variety and venues spring from deep musical roots


he people of Meridian are accustomed to tapping toes, clapping hands and music in the air all year long, thanks to many outdoor music festivals, downtown concerts and bands playing nearly every night at several local venues. These images all reflect Meridian’s deep musical roots. Music lovers still celebrate local legends such as Jimmie Rodgers, “The Father of Country Music,” and proudly claim markers for the Mississippi Blues Trail and Country Music Trail. Main Street Supports Creativity The sounds of the past blend harmoniously with those of the present, and the city’s downtown revitalization group capitalizes on that to promote and foster a creative economy, according to former Meridian Main Street Executive Director John McClure, who recently accepted the post of community development director for the city. Meridian Main Street presents Downtown After 5 Alive, a free five-week concert series. McClure says he is excited about the 2013 series, after such a strong, overwhelming response of more than 500 people at each show last year. McClure says the series was something the community simply needed. “It was an idea whose time had come,” says McClure,

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Meat and Music Squealer’s Serves up live bands on thursdays

People gather in downtown Meridian to hear music during the Jimmie Rodgers Festival.

who established Meridian Main Street in 1985. “People enjoy getting out and experiencing a sense of unity.” And in its second year, McClure says the series will not disappoint, with bigger names to expand the market. The concert series is familyfriendly, McClure says. The first 2013 concert, which fell on Maundy Thursday during the Christian observance of Holy Week, was alcohol-free and featured Gypsy Carns and the Cross Mountain Praise Band. “As Meridian has such a strong tradition of performers and songwriters, we provide a venue for emerging artists as well as people who want to get on stage and perform for their hometown,” McClure says. “Live music and supporting the arts is an important part of our mission – the revitalization of downtown. We try to incorporate music in everything we do.” In addition to the spring concert series, Meridian Main Street also sponsors a children’s art crawl, which features many young artists; Earth’s Bounty, offering fresh, local produce as a fun family event; and a Charlie Brown-themed jazz event near the Christmas season, to

introduce young people to the jazz music genre. “People have heard jazz; they just don’t know they like it,” McClure says. After-Hours Entertainment While sunny afternoons often bring music to downtown, it continues long into the night at several bars and clubs, too. For its size, Meridian has a surprising number of spots for live music most days of the week, including Faces Jazz and Blues Lounge, Rhythm and Brews, local barbecue joint Squealer’s, and Echo Lounge, which has nightly shows. Echo owner Randy Harrison, a 15-year Meridian resident, books all genres of music, from country to blues and jazz to heavy metal. Harrison knows his customers expect variety, so he books bands to suit, and the atmosphere changes often. That’s what enriches the lives – and nightlife – for local residents, he says. “There’s a different crowd every night,” Harrison says. “Music just makes everybody have a good time.”  by Melissa McDonald  by staff photographer Michael Conti

Ladies and gentlemen: Goodhope Goulash. No, that’s not one of the menu items featured at Squealer’s Hickory Smoked Bar-B-Que, but one of several local bands that have played before large Thursday night crowds at the restaurant located on Great River Drive. “We’ve been welcoming music crowds on Thursday nights since early 2012, and word has spread so much that not only do local bands want to play here, but we’re also getting inquiries from groups based in cities like Atlanta, Birmingham and Jackson,” says Teresa Cranmore, who co-owns Squealer’s with her husband, Terrance. Cranmore says that besides Goodhope Goulash, other local bands who have graced the Squealer’s stage include The Al Brown All Stars and Blues Messengers. “Bands on Thursdays play from 6:30-9:30 p.m., and as the weather gets better in the spring and summer, we block off our parking lot to put tables and chairs outdoors to seat even more people,” she says. “We’re thinking of maybe adding another band night in the future, but for now, area music fans know that Squealer’s is the place to be on Thursday nights.”

CHICKEN AND CHARITIES As for its menu, the restaurant serves dishes such as pulled pork and chicken, brisket, steaks and half-pound burgers, plus a number of craft beers are on tap. The staff also gets involved in numerous charity efforts and has raised more than $1 million for worthy causes since opening in 1998. By Kevin Litwin l i va b i l i ty. c o m /m e r i d i a n /m s


Things To Do: arts & culture

Gracing the Stage

Performing arts and venues gain in popularity For patrons of and participants in the performing arts, Meridian offers a treasure trove of venues, shows and acting opportunities, with a long tradition of arts appreciation. On any given weekend, a resident or visitor might take in a performance at the Temple Theater for the Performing Arts, MSU Riley Center or the Meridian Little Theatre, a community theater with the largest membership of any in the Southeast. A Rich History “Meridian has a legacy of performers that can be seen in her rich heritage of artists who, through the years, have graced the

stages in Meridian,” says Sidney Covington, a long-time actor and volunteer at the Meridian Little Theatre. “One needs only to visit our MSU Riley Center, formerly the Grand Opera House, where the likes of George Gershwin and Helen Hayes performed, to know that we’ve been at it a long time. We’ve handed this legacy down through the years, and it continues to grow.” While some larger cities have lost their symphony orchestras, Meridian continues to support its own Meridian Symphony Orchestra, evidence of the community’s commitment to the arts. In addition to offering year-round performances for adults,

Enduring Arrangement

The Meridian Symphony Orchestra has built a loyal following and distinguished history here over more than 50 years of performing for local audiences.



Meridian also incorporates the arts into its school systems. Meridian Little Theatre, for instance, has a vibrant and active youth theater, CenterStage, which hosts a summer workshop for children, stages an elaborate annual production, and produces 22 performances per play for the schools in and around Meridian. “As a city, we value the rich contributions the arts play toward our community and economic development,” Covington says. A Leader’s Legacy While Meridian residents from all walks of life contribute to the city’s performance legacy, no one has played a larger role than the

“Meridian has a legacy of performers that can be seen in her rich heritage of artists who, through the years, have graced the stages of Meridian.”

Relax and Enjoy a Show

MSU Riley Center features a fully restored, circa 1889, grand opera house and a 200-seat studio theater.

sidney covington, resident

late Jimmy Pigford, full-time director at the Meridian Little Theatre from 1965 until his death in February 2013. A Meridian native, Pigford went to Hollywood after college and embarked on a notable stage and screen career during the 1950s. He returned home to Meridian in 1960, “bringing with him a passion and determination to give back to his hometown,” Covington says. “Jimmy threw himself into creating the Meridian Little Theatre and set the standard for what community theater should be. His charm and charisma drew people to him, and his enthusiasm was contagious. The education he gave on the stage served us well. Always teaching, always coaching, always encouraging, Jimmy did as much to shape the lives of each individual as he did to shape the theatrical profile of Meridian.” As the city’s theatrical community mourns the loss of a favorite son, it is determined to keep the legacy alive. Just as Meridian has always celebrated life on the stage, it will continue. Being involved in community has helped generations of Meridian residents grow and stretch their talents and their worldviews, and “we want that to continue,” Covington says.  by Nancy Mann Jackson

Discover more fun attractions in Meridian at ms/things-to-do.

The Time Jumpers featuring Vince Gill play the MSU Riley Center.

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Things To Do: Local Flavor

Purveyors of Great Taste

Meridian restaurants and markets feature flavorful foods Local flavor blends with Southern hospitality to create great food, inviting atmospheres and signature dishes in Meridian restaurants and markets. Local Favorites

Comfort Food

Popular eats

Country Favorites

Weidmann’s, a Meridian favorite since 1870, specializes in traditional Southern cuisine and new classics. Diners can sample a variety of Southern favorites, such as gumbo, shrimp and grits, and blackened catfish po’boys for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Meanwhile, a rotating selection of salads, sandwiches and pasta have made Deli on 5th a downtown weekday lunch favorite. Foodies also know to stop by Cater’s Market for specialty items, organic products and a selection of “gourmet-to-go” casseroles and classic lasagna.

Now located in a single, expanded location, Squealer’s Hickory Smoked Bar-B-Que is Meridian’s go-to restaurant for tasty barbecue. Have the pulled pork, pulled chicken or brisket sandwich, or try the “redneck nachos” with your choice of smoked meat and other decadent toppings while you listen to live music on Thursday nights. Northwood Country Club members and their guests can enjoy the club’s Sunday brunch, which usually includes many choices of down-home Southern cooking, such as squash casserole, deviled eggs, slow-cooked country vegetables and more.

Fresh Produce

Meridian Area Farmers Market When summer rolls around, locals can find fresh fruit and veggies from local farms on Front Street near Union Station at the Meridian Area Farmers Market, which is part of the Mississippi Certified Farmers Market Program. The market opens June through September, Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Trying a new recipe? To help plan before you go, check the market’s Facebook page for updates on what types of produce are available as the season progresses.

International Food

For traditional Japanese cuisine in a casual setting, try Sake Sushi, left, which has a full sushi bar staffed with experienced chefs, as well as those who can prepare delicious steak, chicken or shrimp and other hibachigrilled fare. Nick & Al’s New York Style Pizzeria offers a large selection of hand-tossed pizzas, Italian pastas, calzones and paninis. If you crave Mexican food, La Pinata serves classic favorites and tasty margaritas. El Norte’s three locations also serve traditional Mexican food, including a variety of dinners, vegetarian specialties and Mexican beers.



Steak and Seafood

Off the grill Looking for a great steak? Rustler Steak House and Lounge serves high-quality steak and seafood dishes in an upscale atmosphere. Ole Farm Beef House offers an assortment of charcoalgrilled steaks, seafood, chicken and other family favorites. After a round of golf, relax in Northwood Country Club’s members-only dining room and order the six-ounce tenderloin of beef or another of their fine dining specialties, such as crab cakes. By Barbara Biehler

Check out more great places to eat in Meridian at ms/food.

Things To Do: sports & recreation

Game On

Annual State Games of Mississippi benefit Meridian Area economy

Athletes from all over the region compete in the State Games of Mississippi, which has 40 events and contributes more than $6.5 million to the local economy.

In 1992, the city of Meridian began hosting the annual State Games of Mississippi. Now, more than 40 sports competitions are held annually throughout the month of June, with nearly 30 of the events staged in Meridian and Lauderdale County. “The State Games are an excellent way to get moving in a fun, competitive environment,” says Leslie Lee, director of marketing and development for State Games of Mississippi. “All rules and events are governed by the National Congress of State Games, which is affiliated with the prestigious U.S. Olympic Committee.” The opening ceremony in downtown Meridian at City Hall usually draws thousands including 8,000 to 10,000 athletes, and features a parade of athletes, lighting of the Games torch and a fireworks show.

Several Cities Host Events take place primarily on weekends (Thursday through Sunday) to encourage the most involvement from athletes, and competitions are for all ages. Lee says that one year, the Games welcomed a five-year-old, and another year, a 96-year-old. Other cities that host events include Bay St. Louis, Clinton, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Laurel and Philadelphia. Worth $6.5 Million Lee adds that the State Games remain a big economic engine for the East Mississippi region. “Every five years, we compile an economic impact survey, with the last one occurring in 2010, and it showed that the Games generate $6.5 million annually for East Mississippi,” she says. “Local athletes participate in events such as 5K runs, baseball and softball

games, tennis, golf, canoeing and track. Plus, East Mississippi welcomes hundreds of out-of-town athletes to our venues. The survey shows that each visiting athlete brings an average of three family members with them.” Since the State Games of Mississippi is a nonprofit, the event’s local sponsors and 500-plus volunteers are vital to its success. “As long as we continue to produce the solid financial and volunteer backing, the Games should be here for many years to come,” Lee says. To learn more about the State Games of Mississippi, visit the organization’s website at  by Kevin Litwin Check out more fun things to do in Meridian at

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LIVING: Education

Track of Success

Ross Collins CTC helps students pave career paths Since opening during World War II, the Ross Collins Career and Technical Center continues its tradition as a training ground for students throughout the Meridian area. When it opened in November 1942, Ross Collins trained workers for local factories. Students today gain skills for careers in a far wider variety of areas, from culinary arts to welding. The center enrolls more than 400 area high school juniors and seniors annually as they prepare for vocational and technical careers. “It’s a good place, and we have

very good teachers,” says Terry Moore, director of Ross Collins CTC. “We look at it as another avenue for kids to be successful.” Head Start Ross Collins, Mississippi’s oldest and largest vocational center, currently offers 12 two-year programs to students from Meridian Public School District, Lauderdale County School District, the Home Schoolers Association and private schools. “If you just go by numbers, the favorite programs seem to be

Get Ahead with Hands-on Training

Students gain valuable skills and industry experience at the Ross Collins Career and Technical Center in Meridian.

culinary arts, auto mechanics and health science,” Moore says. “Those are probably the top three, but all of our programs are well-represented by enrollment.” Though students typically don’t receive all the certifications they would need to go directly into their focused industry, the curriculum at Ross Collins gives them a head start. Plus, it allows them to have an opportunity to interact with local business and industry leaders who often work with the center. Dual Purpose Students can also earn dual enrollment for some college programs, such as those at Meridian Community College, Moore says. “For instance,” he says, “if you’re taking drafting at Ross Collins, you will also be enrolled in CAD (computer automated drawings). So you’ll get credits at MCC while you’re at Ross Collins. Basically, you’ll start earning college credits while you’re in high school.” As an example of a successful alumnus of Ross Collins CTC, Moore points out Hartley Peavey, founder of Peavey Electronics in Meridian in 1964. Peavey continues to serve as an ambassador for the center. “He toots our horn a lot,” Moore says.  by Kevin Litwin

“We look at [career and technical training] as another avenue for kids to be successful.” terry moore, director of ross collins ctc

Read more about Meridian’s education options at meridian/ms/schools.



Students may choose from some programs at Ross Collins, such as drafting, that allow for earning dual credit at Meridian Community College.

LIVING: Health

In Fine Health

Meridian’s health-care industry benefits residents, economy Medicine creates a healthy industry in East Mississippi, and that includes hospital employment figures. Meanwhile, residents benefit from both the economic factor and options for care. Rush Health Systems, which comprises seven hospitals and 30 physician practice sites employs more than 3,000 workers, while Anderson Regional Medical Center has 1,600 employees, and East Mississippi State Hospital has 1,500. Alliance Health Center employs 385. Also contributing to the medical betterment and overall economy of Meridian and Lauderdale County are facilities such as Pine Grove Outreach Center, The Specialty Hospital of Meridian and Weems Community Mental Health Center. “All of these top facilities provide quality treatment and

services not only to residents of Meridian and Lauderdale County, but also to people throughout east central Mississippi and west central Alabama,” says Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation. “The health-care industry remains vital to this region, with 1,000 physicians and a total of 6,000 medical-based employees.” Cancer, Heart, Psychiatric services With a history dating to 1928, Anderson Regional remains the largest area hospital, with 400 beds. It features two campuses, plus houses the region’s sole comprehensive cancer center, and also offers services such as a pain management center, wound healing center, Level III ER and a

medically based fitness center. The 215-bed Rush Foundation Hospital traces its roots to 1915, and today, has five affiliated 25-bed critical access hospitals in its network, Rush Health Systems. Rush Foundation services include Rush Heart Institute, the Family Birth Center at Rush, Rush Pain Treatment, Rush GI Lab, Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center, Rush Sports Medicine and The Vein Center at Rush, as well as other specialty services. East Mississippi State Hospital is the second-largest mental health hospital in the state, while Alliance Health also serves patients with mental health or substance abuse issues. “Anderson Regional and Rush Foundation are our acute-care hospitals in Meridian, and both have greatly extended their

More than 1,000 physicians and 6,000 medical-based employees work at Meridian area health-care facilities.



“The hospitals provide a number of on-site health education opportunities, as well as a variety of classes in convenient settings. Plus their staff members volunteer in many programs and activities throughout the community.”

Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian is part of the Rush Health Systems network.

wade jones, embdc president

services throughout the region with the acquisition and establishment of several medical clinics,” Jones says. “Those clinics help address immediate primary care needs in many small rural communities within about a 65-mile radius of Meridian, including nine counties in Mississippi and three in Alabama.” Advanced and Effective Jones adds that the area’s medical facilities also champion wellness for residents, especially important given increasing CDC statistics on obesity and reports about the associated quality of life

and economic impact. “The hospitals provide a number of on-site health education opportunities, as well as a variety of classes in convenient settings. Plus, their staff members volunteer in many programs and activities throughout the community,” Jones says. “The health-care facilities are good neighbors and community supporters within East Mississippi, and the industry means so much to our overall economy. We are lucky to have an advanced, impactful health-care industry in Meridian and Lauderdale County.”  by Kevin Litwin

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Floor Maintenance Equipment



1212 Grand Ave. • Meridian, MS • (601) 693-1783 • (800) 844-8894



Community profile  White





Median Household Income

ethnicity 15%






Median Home Price



cost of living


 17 and Under

$568 Median Rent for a Two-Bedroom Apartment

 18-64  65 and Over (percentages based on the total = 80,261)

(percentages based on the total = 80,261)

Transportation Median Travel Time to Work

Temperature January Average Low

July Average High



18 minutes 76°


Closest Airport Meridian Regional Airport

January Low National Low

July High

National High

4 miles

This section is sponsored by

business: overview

Invest and Rest

Meridian businesses prove strength and profitability Meridian, the “Strategic Center of the South” is a regional draw for jobs, retail, culture and health care for a 65-mile radius that covers not only Mississippi but also West Alabama. Leading Industries

Distribution and Manufacturing Companies Mitchell Distributing, a familyowned distributor and wholesaler of Anheuser-Busch products, is headquartered in Meridian. Southern Pipe and Supply Company also makes its home base here. The company is one of the nation’s largest private-independent wholesalers of plumbing, heating and air-conditioning materials. Van Zyverden Inc. ships hundreds of millions of bulbs to all states in the U.S. and Canada, making it one of the world’s largest wholesale flower bulb distributors. Product manufacturing, a large contributor to the area’s business climate, includes manufacturers such as Peavey Electronics, Avery Dennison, Structural Steel Services Inc., Magnolia Steel, Lockheed Martin, Atlas Roofing and Southern Cast Products. Products range from adhesive products to steel. Retail

Meridian shopping

Location, Transportation, Military

Meridian’s location gives residents and businesses easy access to Interstates 20 and 59; US Highways 11, 45 and 80; and State Highways 19, 39, 145 and 493; and the city has its own air transportation. Meridian Regional Airport offers daily flights to Atlanta, Ga., and boards approximately 2,000 travelers a month. The airport is home to Key Field, the longest public-use runway in the state. Key Field houses Mississippi Air National Guard 186th Air Refueling Wing and Army National Guard 185th Army Aviation Support Facility. The city’s largest employer is Meridian Naval Air Station, with 3,300 workers.



Bonita Lakes Mall, which houses more than 100 stores and four department stores, provides consumers with lots of shopping choices. Specialty shops, restaurants, eateries and a theater are located on site. Meridian Crossroads, sits on 375,000 acres of space where approximately 30 businesses reside. By Raven Petty Learn more about Meridian’s business climate and workforce at ms/business.

Business Spotlight Atlas Roofing Corporation Based in Meridian, where the company began in 1982, Atlas Roofing Corporation manufactures shingles, roof underlayments and insulation, and other materials for homeowners, contractors, builders and distributors.

Dean Aircraft Service This aircraft maintenance and repair company has a 33,000-square-foot facility at the Meridian Regional Airport. Dean Aircraft’s mechanics have serviced Cessna 421, Cessna Citation 500 and Beechcraft King Air aircraft.

Pioneer Automotive Industries LLC Headquartered in Meridian, Pioneer Automotive Industries LLC supplies customers with engine parts, filter kits, flywheels and flexplates, and other materials for vehicles of all makes and models.

The Service Company Providing heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing assistance for residential and commercial customers, The Service Company is based in Meridian. Preventive maintenance programs are also available to keep systems running smoothly.

Ideal Software Solutions Inc. Meridian-based Ideal Software Solutions Inc. supplies integrated hardware and software systems to the family entertainment industry, as well as to the check-cashing, payday advance, rent-to-own and title loan industries.


A Place to Create & Thrive

Meridian offers young entrepreneurs a great place to create and grow or start a business. Courtney Taylor, co-owner of Angel Court Jewels, moved back to the area after living in New York for 10 years.



No Place Like


Mississippi Young Professionals group aims to retain young talent


any people may be surprised to learn that Courtney Taylor began her career in fashion not by moving to New York from her hometown of Meridian, Miss., but by doing just the opposite.

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Inspiring Young Leaders

More than 250 young professionals attended the 2013 Mississippi Young Professionals summit in Meridian to help “Rethink Mississippi.”

After 10 years working for Delta Airlines in New York City, Taylor was ready to return to Meridian, and from there, her jewelrydesigning hobby has become a thriving business. Jewelry from Angel Court Jewels is sold in stores across the country and worn by celebrities and rock stars. “One of the best educations a person can have is to move away from your roots for a period of time,” Taylor says. “It’s after that time away that you see how you connect with the place you are from and learn to appreciate it.” Great Young Talent That connection is something that Fredie Carmichael of the Mississippi Development Authority would like to see more of from young professionals such as Taylor. He heads up the Mississippi Young Professionals organization, which kicked off its first year with a summit at the MSU Riley Center in late April. More than 250 young professionals attended the 2013 26


event to learn about their home state’s career opportunities and to network. “Our slogan for this summit was Rethink Mississippi,” says Carmichael, regional development manager for MDA. “We’ve got a lot of great young talent here, and too many times they leave the state because they don’t see the opportunities that are right here in front of them. We wanted to at least address the perception issue.” “We feel like Mississippi has a lot to offer. For whatever reason, we have a lot of people from our state who want to look outside our border for careers, and we’re trying to change that so they’ll see all the innovation and creation that comes out of this state and why it’s important to stay here.” Impact on Community Or in Taylor’s case, why it was important to return here. She and longtime friend Angela Burgess are business partners in Angel Court Jewels. Taylor designs the

jewelry in a downtown studio in Meridian and Burgess handles marketing from her home in Little Rock, Ark. Not only does Taylor choose to live in Meridian because of the supportive network she enjoys with her family and friends nearby, she says the city also has been a good place from which to create. “Living away from the fashion mecca keeps my creativity fresh and shields me from the influence of other designers,” says Taylor, a member of MSYP. Keyes Kennard can attest to the benefits of MSYP and of staying in-state to launch a business. He was in his mid-20s when he borrowed money from the bank to purchase a mobile phone accessories kiosk in Bonita Lakes Mall, and just a few years later that business venture has led to the opening of five AT&T Mobile Solutions stores across the state. Kennard, who is president of the company, believes the MSYP can help other young entrepreneurs.

“It’s something where you give your time, and the return may be hard to measure, but it’s a pretty big deal in my opinion. You’re able to see the impact you have on the community.” keyes kennard, at&t Mobile Solutions

“It’s been a good organization for me,” says Kennard, an MSYP board member who was one of the featured speakers at the kick-off summit. “It’s something where you give your time, and the return may be hard to measure, but it’s a pretty big deal in my opinion. You’re able to see the impact you have on the community.”  by John McBryde and Nancy Mann Jackson  by staff photographer Michael Conti

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Corporate Office Phone (601) 693-8777 Corporate Office Fax (601) 693-8778 Corporate Office Location 12340 Quitman Meridian Hwy. Meridian, MS 39301

l i va b i l i ty. c o m /m e r i d i a n /m s



Lala Enterprises’ Holiday Inn Meridian is one of the area’s newest hotels. The hospitality and restaurant group’s owner Abdul Lala credits his company’s growth and success largely to the Meridian area’s supportive business environment.



Right Place,

Right Time Meridian economy spells success for determined business owner


hen Abdul Lala immigrated to the United States in 1971 from his native India, he quickly settled into a career path. But then he met a Meridian businessman who offered an opportunity, and soon everything was different.

Lala had studied engineering at Texas A&M University, earned two master’s degrees in chemical and petrochemical engineering, and made his way to Chicago, where he worked as a chemist. “The company I worked for sold cosmetic and hair-care products for large cosmetics companies,” Lala recalls. “I met Charles Young, Sr., the owner of Young Manufacturing in Meridian, and he was having some problems with his products. His orders weren’t big enough to be processed right away, and he finally decided to find someone to help him make his own products in

his Mississippi facility. He offered me a position as a consultant, I came to Mississippi and we solved his problems. I had been looking at some other opportunities, but decided to give Meridian a try.” Hospitality Industry worth an investment Lala was doing fine in his new job, but his wife Farida “was bored, because she’d been working in Chicago, but hadn’t found anything here,” he says. As entrepreneurial as her husband, Farida soon changed that situation.

“A friend offered her a part-time position in a small motel, and one evening when I returned from work, she began to tell me what a good business that was and how we should invest,” he says. “I told her I really didn’t think it was my kind of work, but she said it was too late, because she’d made a $5,000 deposit and signed an agreement.” That was in 1981. And from a property that was “in pretty bad shape,” the Lalas have built a franchise business, Lala Enterprises, which now has hotel properties in Mississippi and surrounding states. The company l i va b i l i ty. c o m /m e r i d i a n /m s


Kick Off Your Shoes

Modern amenities and comforts encourage guests to relax and unwind at Lala Enterprises’ Holiday Inn Meridian, the newest of several area hotels owned by local entrepreneur and Meridian advocate Abdul Lala.



recently branched out into other areas, such as restaurants. And Lala says it’s all thanks to a business climate that not only supports, but also encourages, entrepreneurship. Meridian Embraces Startup Businesses “This community, the city and county governments, have been extremely supportive of us,” Lala says. “We had to work hard in the beginning to get established, but as we started growing, we developed good relationships with the banks and other vendors. We got our first loan approved in 1988, and ever since then we’ve kept growing. After a while, we stopped buying properties and began to build our own, which we could not have done without the business support that we’ve found here.” Next up for Lala, who won the EMBDC’s 2012 Harvey D. Peavy Award for Entrepreneurial

Excellence, is more growth in the restaurant aspect of his business. “We have three restaurants in our hotels, and almost two years ago, we opened a Buffalo Wild Wings that has done very well,” he says. “Now we are looking at an IHOP franchise, and of course, we’ll continue to build hotels.” And as for Meridian, Lala says, “We wouldn’t take anything to leave this city. We have been able to build a business here, then diversify that business. This is home.”  by Joe Morris  by staff photographer Michael Conti

Learn more about what it’s like to do business in Meridian at meridian/ms/business.

Glover, YounG, Walton & SimmonS, pllc Attorneys H. Wingfield Glover, Jr. Ralph E. Young, Jr. Ronnie L. Walton H. Wingfield Glover, III William W. Simmons Stephen B. Jackson Reed C. Darsey



Post Office Drawer 5514 1724A 23rd Ave. Meridian, MS 39302-5514 (601) 693-1301 (601) 693-1363 Fax

Donnie Croley

“We wouldn’t take anything to leave this city. We have been able to build a business here, then diversify that business. This is home.” abdul lala, resident & entrepreneur


Kem’s restaurant inside Lala’s Holiday Inn ser ves Am erican favorites to visitors and guests.

Since 1953

Suppliers/Designers to the Food Service Industry Foodservice Equipment • Supplies • Furniture

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC Five Locations to Serve You: Meridian, MS • Jackson, MS • Gulfport, MS Memphis, TN • Nashville, TN (800) 782-6651 •

The Boat Repair Shop

Full-Line Electrical Supply Distributor Matthew Croley HOURS Mon.-Fri.: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.: 10 a.m.-12 p.m. 8000 Hwy. 45 N. Meridian, MS 39305 (601) 483-5858


OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 12 Locations:

Yamaha Outboards Tohatsu Outboards Sea ark Boats Qwest Pontoons Generac Generators

MErIDIaN 912 13th St. Meridian, MS 39301 601-484-5760 tel 601-484-6577 fax

MS Cleveland, MS Greenville, MS Greenwood, MS Meridian, MS (x2) Oxford, MS

aL Anniston, AL Dothan, AL Mobile, AL Tuscaloosa, AL

La Alexandria, LA

FL Pensacola, FL

l i va b i l i ty. c o m /m e r i d i a n /m s


Ad Index

23 Alliance Health Center

1 Lauderdale County Tourism

C2 Anderson Regional Medical Center

20 Meridian Community College

21 Atmos Energy

19 Dr. Dan H. Singley DMD

17 East Mississippi Community College

32 East Mississippi Electric Power Association

31 Glover, Young, Walton & Simmons PLLC

31 Meridian Outboard

10 Mississippi Power

20 Newell Paper

27 Progressive Pipeline

C4 Rush Foundation Hospital

31 Sequel Electrical Supply

10 The Citizens Bank

19 Woman’s Group of Meridian PLLC

10 Holiday Inn Meridian East 31 Hotel & Restaurant Supply

business: Chamber Report

Business Brewing

Chamber expands member benefits, from networking events to website The East Mississippi Business Development Corporation brews lots of coffee once a month to help its member businesses. A 30-minute Morning Coffee Break takes place from 9-9:30 a.m. on the second Tuesday of each month, so chamber members can meet the business community while enjoying a cup of coffee.

“A different business hosts the event each month, and it doesn’t cost anything for that business to serve as host. The EMBDC backs the program,” says Meredith Rea, public relations coordinator with the EMBDC. “About 90 percent of our 600 chamber members either own or are affiliated with small businesses that have 25 employees

or fewer, and the Morning Coffee Break allows the EMBDC to further help that chamber demographic with networking.” Rea says all chamber members are invited to the monthly events. “It’s an easy way for people from smaller businesses to network, and anyone new to the group gets a few minutes to introduce themselves to the crowd,” she says. “You’re probably going to have a morning cup of coffee or juice anyway – might as well network and perhaps attract some business during those 30 minutes once a month.” Members-Only Discounts EMBDC members also have access to exclusive discounts through deals from other chamber members. “In this program, a member business must make their discount exclusive to other members – the discount can’t be available to the general public,” Rea says. “All our chamber members receive discount availability cards they can give to their employees, plus members can post all their discount deals through our EMBDC website.” Redesigned Website The EMBDC has redesigned to make it easier for users. Members can now add available discounts to their account and register for chamber events. “I know there are some people whose only quiet time during the day might be 9 o’clock at night, so they can sit down then and access the website to check everything that is worthy of their interest,” Rea says. “Leading Edges in Meridian performed our website upgrade, and the EMBDC was very detailed in what we wanted. It’s a really nice, user-friendly site.”  by Kevin Litwin



economic profile Total Sales Tax (State) Exempt: prescriptions, motor fuel, home utilities, newspapers, health care services, payments by Medicare and Medicaid

18% 64%


education level  High School Graduate Only, or with Associate Degree  Bachelor’s Degree or Higher  Other


$1.3B Annual Retail Sales

$136M Annual Hotel and Food Sales


State Income Tax The first $5,000 of taxable income: 3%; $5,001 to $9,999: 4%; $10,000 +: 5%







Top Employers  Naval Air Station Meridian, Peavey Electronics Corp., Rush Hospital, East Mississippi State Hospital  Meridian Public School System, Lauderdale County Public Schools  Avery Dennison, City of Meridian, Air National Guard

household income


 $100,000+ 13% of households

 $30,000-99,000  $29,999 and under Meridian Regional Airport

38% of households

49% of households Amtrak Railroad

Total Number of Firms

visit our advertisers Alliance Health Center

Glover, Young, Walton & Simmons PLLC

Newell Paper

Anderson Regional Medical Center

Holiday Inn Meridian East

Progressive Pipeline

Atmos Energy

Hotel & Restaurant Supply

Rush Foundation Hospital

Dr. Dan H. Singley DMD

Lauderdale County Tourism

East Mississippi Community College

Meridian Community College

East Mississippi Electric Power Association

Meridian Outboard Mississippi Power

Sequel Electrical Supply The Citizens Bank Woman’s Group of Meridian PLLC

Livability Meridian, MS 2013  

Meridian is the sixth largest city in Mississippi. Its economy is boosted by diverse industries. Some include manufacturing, retail, profess...

Livability Meridian, MS 2013  

Meridian is the sixth largest city in Mississippi. Its economy is boosted by diverse industries. Some include manufacturing, retail, profess...