The Stone County Economic Development Partnership hosted its annual membership meeting at The Venue at Seven L Farms last Tuesday.
The Keynote Speaker for the evening was Dr. Mary Graham, President of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The message was very timely and emphasized the economic impact the college has on Stone County and beyond.
Dr. Ladd Taylor concluded his two-year term as board president by taking the opportunity to thank everyone for their support.
He recognized the many volunteers who support SCEDP events such as Pine Hill Festival, Home for the Holidays, Cultivation Nation Triathlon and many other activities throughout the year.
“The Chamber Division is cutting pathways to new traditions while cultivating the interests of a younger generation,” he said in his closing remarks. “The tourism division continues to foster new visitors to Stone County through innovative ideas which reflect positively on our economic impact.”
SCEDP Executive Director Betsy Rowell said the economic development division has evolved into an awesome group of professionals with a laser focus on how best to position Stone County for job growth, retention and business expansions.
“Expect to see success stories in the coming year,” she said.
Newly elected board members were introduced, Shanna Murray Luke of William Carey University, W.G. Hickman of Tri-County Air and Patti Saia of McDaniel’s General Merchandise.
The City Of Wiggins Board of Aldermen approved a second term for Marilyn Monroe of Bank of Wiggins and Jody Miles of The First.
Incoming Board Members for the Chamber Division are Seth Willison of Willison Timberworks Design Build, Ashely Whitfield of State Farm Insurance-Rusty Rayborn Agency, Shrya Galloway of The G-Way Group, LLC, Pam White of Hampton Inn & Suites and Sgt. Tim Hill of the Wiggins Police Department.
Members of the community were recognized for their effort to impact the area in positive ways as awards were presented in several categories.
INDUSTRY OF THE YEAR
STONE COUNTY HOSPITAL
From an economic standpoint, Stone County Hospital contributes $25 million dollars to Stone County [$9 million in wages and benefits, $175,000 in local purchases, $150,000 in taxes, and $15,000 in charitable community donations].
The company provides jobs to more than 200 employees.
SCH believes in the importance on being involved with the different organizations that help to build morale, growth, and services to the community.
As a community builder, this organization and its employees have been a part of working with the Stone County EDP, Chamber, Kiwanis Club, schools and other community outreach services such as Christmas for the children at the Baptist Children's Village at Deanash.
We would like to recognize Stone County Hospital & Family Medical Center as this year’s Large Industry Award winner.
Stone County Hospital provides emergency, inpatient, rehabilitation, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, family practice, and ambulance services to the county. There are many different specialists that come to Stone County Hospital, which include: cardiology, general surgery, orthopedics, urology, podiatry, pediatric gastroenterology, ophthalmology.
BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
WHITE’S PHARMACY & WHITE HOUSE GIFTS
White’s Pharmacy opened in an existing building in 1965 in Downtown Wiggins and built a modern new facility in 1970 at the corner of Pine Avenue and Second Street.
On Valentine’s Day weekend in 2009, the pharmacy opened on Fifth Street where they now have a dozen employees and a well-appointed gift shop.
Becky White assumed leadership of White’s Pharmacy upon the retirement of her father, John White.
Supporting all areas of our community, White’s exemplifies what a small business means to our community.
EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
Sandra Parsons is married to Dana Parsons and has one daughter, Whitney.
She began teaching in Stone County in 1984.
She taught in multiple grades with great success and her transition into administration began as an assistant principal at Perkinston Elementary.
That was soon followed with a stint as the principal at Perkinston Elementary where that school achieved an A status.
She then joined the Stone County Central Office in the administrative capacity as the Testing and Accreditation Director. The Stone County School District is now an A rated school district for the first time in the county’s history.
Parsons played a vital role in this accomplishment by not only analyzing student data but also by teaching administrators and teachers how to utilize this information to the benefit of our students. It is truly a unique type of person who enjoys and thrives on delving deep into the data and Mrs. Parsons IS one of those people.
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO THE ARTS
FRIENDS OF STONE COUNTY LIBRARIES
That sums up Friends of the Stone County Libraries. They are a non-profit, membership organization benefitting both Wiggins and McHenry Libraries. They are dedicated to maintaining an interest in books and libraries; to focus public attention on local services, provide volunteers, special events and encourage endowments for the future. They wrote and managed the Bicentennial grant that resulted in the Heroes of Stone County Mural and the Maybe Something Beautiful in Stone County Mural at Perkinston Elementary. Friends have been recently recognized by the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education for this work. The leadership team is made up of Linda Spitz, Pat Oakes, Donna Rouse, and Kathryn Lewis.
TED AND JULIE CAIN
The recipients’ efforts have impacted nearly every resident and thousands of visitors in some way over the last two decades. For those of you that remember, Stone County was without a hospital for years when the county had to close its doors. Because there was no hospital available, this impacted employment, quality of life and access to care. Doctors, nurses, and many others were having to drive out of the county daily for employment. Most importantly, people did not have access to inpatient or emergency care.
We are thankful to Ted and Julie Cain for putting a plan in place to purchase the facility and to re-open the hospital doors in November of 2001.
They began recruiting doctors, nurses and other staff to make the hospital viable. Since then, an array of outpatient diagnostics and therapy services were added. Later, the Cain family opened the Family Medical Center and Stone County Nursing and Rehab Center to serve on the hospital campus. Seeing the need for a locally based ambulance service, they established the hospital ambulance service more than a decade ago for medical transportation and emergency scene responses.
The impact of their vision and work has been vital and tremendously appreciated.
CITIZEN OF THE YEAR
SGT. TIM HILL, WIGGINS POLICE DEPARTMENT
Sgt. Hill served active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps from 1995 until 2015.
During his time on active duty, he served a total of nine tours, five of them were in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He led those in his command with distinction.
Through all that he endured during his 20 years of service, his motto was service before self.
He continues to prove himself as a great man of loyalty, integrity and humility; always seeking and striving to find ways to help those in need, uniting communities and serving the people, meeting them right where they are.
He’s a great example of what it truly means to serve the community, seeing people as people, not objects and treating them as such and not seeking accolades or praise for it, but doing it out of the kindness of his heart.
Sgt. Hill is a graduate of the Southern Regional Public Safety Institute at Camp Shelby and Mississippi FBI Command College at the University of Southern Mississippi.
THE NAMING OF THE NELL O’NEAL MURRAY
AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING LEADERSHIP
Seldom do we have someone with the unique talent to willingly wear so many hats.
That of co-worker, mentor, friend, teacher, even clown.
Nell O’Neal Murry has worn a path deep and wide for all those who follow. And, she has planned, supported and found funding for that pathway.
“She has had a hand in writing millions of dollars in grants for a variety of infrastructure projects, assisting with planning and moving this county forward for as long as I’ve known her,” said Scott Strickland, president of the Stone County Board of Supervisors. “She is vocal in her beliefs and is an asset to the county. She has an aggressive personality, after all; she is an O’Neal.”
Engineer Jon Bond was initially left speechless when asked to comment about his life-long friend and mentor.
He echoed what everyone had said about Murray, she has been one of the most dedicated individuals he has known when it comes to moving Stone County forward.
“I have never seen someone so willing to step up and step in when needed,” Rowell said. “She is persuasive, loyal, and dedicated to our organization. Her enthusiasm for this place we call home is contagious.”