On the road in and around Jackson and Greenwood, Mississippi...
Deposit Guaranty Corporation
Deposit Guaranty Corporation, a bank holding company, is headquartered in downtown Jackson in two connected buildings. The taller of the two buildings (22-stories) was built in 1975, with the executive offices on the fourth floor. The other building was built in 1958 and stands 18-stories high.
I ask CEO E.B. Robinson, Jr if there's any special reason for his being on the fourth floor (as opposed to the 22nd or 10th floor). "It was here when I took over", he says.
Robinson is a heavy-duty runner. He doesn't run marathons, he runs ultra marathons--the 100-mile kind. When he finds out I'm from California he asks me if I'm familiar with a new high-protein
energy supplement. I tell him that although I average about 100 miles a day on my bike, I'm strictly a McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's kind of guy.
Robinson has the United States flag and the German flag in his office because he's Mississippi's honorary consular to Germany. There's no boardroom table in the boardroom. Instead, it's a
large room with theater-style seating facing a podium. Over 50 people sit on the Board of Directors and Advisory Board. (For more information see: DEPS)
Jitney Jungle Stores
Jitney Jungle Stores of America is a privately held supermarket chain with stores in five states. Headquarters sits above one of the company's huge Sack & Save stores about four miles
outside of downtown Jackson.
Sack & Save stores are those mega-stores where you sack your own groceries. What view does Holman, the CEO, have from his office? His window overlooks the inside of the store. Looking out the window we see someone eating grapes in the produce section. It's a great perch for spotting shoplifters.
I wondered how they came up with the name Jitney Jungle so I asked Holman about it. Turns out the name was supposed to be Jitney Jingle but the printer made a mistake. The company decided to keep the new name because of the high cost of redoing everything.
At Jitney Jungle I let loose on something that bothers me. Do you realize smoking is allowed in grocery stores in Mississippi? I tell Jitney Jungle to get with the program, they're behind the
times. As if to prove my point, I then go downstairs to the bakery department and two women are smoking up a storm. I head for the produce department where I find a man and woman smoking over the zucchini. The whole store reeks of cigarettes. Not a pleasant shopping environment.
First Mississippi Corporation
First Mississippi Corporation produces chemicals, fertilizer, oil, coal and gold. Revenues in 1991 totaled $536 million.
Corporate offices are in a two-story building on the fringe of downtown. Built in 1976, the company-owned, 25,800 square-foot building is nothing fancy.
Kelley Williams, the CEO, has two offices. One is a neat and tidy "formal" corner office where he greets visitors. The other office, which is next door, has papers piled everywhere. This is
the office where Williams gets the work done.
Williams is an avid magazine reader. I count over 40 current issues of magazines in a rack on the wall including: "Institutional Investor," "Economist," "Forbes," "Fortune" and "Financial World."
Did First Mississippi give me a T-shirt or a visor? Nope, I get a bag of fertilizer (a very small bag) AND a piece of gold. Well, it's kind of a small piece of gold. Well, actually it's a small piece of ore. But it has one/one millionth of an ounce of gold in it, so I'm told. (For more information see: FRM )
Staple Cotton Cooperative Association
About 100 miles north of Jackson, Mississippi and 100 miles south of Memphis is the sleepy town of Greenwood (population 15,000). It's home to the Staple Cotton Cooperative Association (Staplcotn is the logo name.) With sales between $300 million to $500 million depending on the price of cotton, Staplcotn is the largest of the four major cotton cooperatives in the United States. The other three are: Plains Cotton Cooperative in Lubbock, Texas, Calcot in Bakersfield, California and Southwest Irrigated Growers in El Paso, Texas.
Staplcotn headquarters are downtown in a three-story structure originally built in 1904 to house a hardware company. In 1931, Staplcotn bought the building. Today about 90 people work here. The front entrance doors are unusual. They are half wood and half-leaded glass. The lobby
display a handpicked bale of cotton enclosed in glass.
I meet with R.E. Dilatush, Jr., Vice President and Secretary, who has been with Staplcotn over 30 years. He proves to be a great source for explaining the cotton business company history.
Cotton is graded and sampled on the second floor of the building. After cotton is harvested, machines compress it into bales, each weighing about 500 pounds. Samples from every bale are
brought up to Staplcotn's specially lighted room where they are graded. As I came into town I passed Staplcotn's huge warehouse facility--its capacity is 337,000 bales.
The whole second floor is filled with cotton samples. I hear a constant hissing noise because machines continuously spray a very fine mist in the air to keep the cotton from drying out.
The company's third floor has an interesting feature: in the 1930's and 1940's it housed a roller skating rink. The circular wooden floor is still visible.
There's no boardroom table in the boardroom. The 33-member Board sits in rows of chairs facing a podium. There's a huge Persian rug (15.5 x 31.6 feet) under the chairs.