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Agents of change

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
May 5, 2002
Harrison Lewis is one. Wade Jones is one. Mitch Stennett is one. Mike McGrevey is one.
When he hosts a radio show on Saturday, May 18, featuring the two candidates for Congress from Mississippi's new 3rd Congressional District Ronnie Shows and Chip Pickering talk show host and community activist Lewis will have pulled off something of a news coup.
He will stage the first live debate between the two candidates in what is expected to be one of the most hotly-contested congressional elections in the country this fall. Neither Pickering, a Republican, nor Shows, a Democrat, drew party primary opposition, clearing the decks for an all-out battle in the redrawn district.
Democrats believe they can pick up enough seats across the country to re-take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and they must pick up seats like this one to do it. Republicans believe they can retain control, but they must win seats like this one to do it.
Lewis' 90-minute "Truthmaster" show airs Saturdays from 4 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on local radio station WNBN, 1290 AM, and this one is certain to generate considerable interest among anyone who cares who will be their next congressman.
He told me the other day that call-ins are welcome. The number to call is 483-3401.
Lewis' Coalition for Change has been out registering voters and doing other political groundwork over the past few months and the organization is becoming a force with which local politicians will have to reckon.
As president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corp., Wade Jones is working publicly and, occasionally, very privately, to bring in new industry and better-paying jobs. He is working with Mitch Stennett, who heads the Economic Development Authority of Jones County, and others on an I-59 technology corridor that seems to hold great promise.
The corridor is a 168-mile stretch along I-59 that runs from the Mississippi-Alabama line east of Meridian to the Mississippi-Louisiana line near Hancock and Pearl River counties. Jones and Stennett believe it is an ideal avenue for high-tech commerce, an "expressway into the future."
When you think about that it makes a lot of sense: from Peavey Electronics, Lockheed Martin and Rexel, to name a few, in Meridian, to Howard Industries and its transformers, electronic ballasts and computers in Laurel, to Hattiesburg's polymers and coatings, to NASA-inspired Stennis Space Center's geographic information systems and remote sensing programs.
What Jones, Stennett and others are doing in this field carries huge potential for positive change in east and south Mississippi. The presence of seven institutions of learning in the corridor MSU-Meridian Campus, Meridian Community College, Jones County Junior College, USM, William Carey College, Pearl River Community College and the Center for Higher Learning at NASA  can only help.
And then comes Mike McGrevey, who heads the Kemper County Economic Development Authority, the subject of an excellent profile by Meridian's own Bill Johnson in last week's edition of the Mississippi Business Journal. McGrevey, retired military with no prior economic development experience, found his job through a classified ad in The Meridian Star.
Local officials were willing to overlook the fact that he actually lives in Newton County, believing that the man's intelligence, energy and willingness to tackle a daunting economic development task in a small east Mississippi county outweighed where he lived.
He is proving them right in that assessment. Construction of a peak power plant is a cooperative venture providing several hundred construction jobs and 15 or so permanent jobs when the project goes on-line.
McGrevey, a former Mississippi Golden Gloves boxing champion, has the perseverance and competitive spirit to make good things happen in Kemper County.
These folks and many, many others are agents of change in east Mississippi, using their skills, contacts and abilities to produce a better quality of life for people in our communities.

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