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The Panola Partnership’s Citizenship Award was presented to Marni McKenzie by Brad Robison at the Partnership’s annual meeting and dinner last Thursday night. The Panolian photo by Rita Howell
Partnership hands out annual awards at banquet

By Rupert Howell
and Rita Howell

Members of the Panola Partnership gathered for their 17th annual meeting and dinner last Thursday, recognizing individuals and businesses for service to the community, and hearing a report from Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons about the organization’s achievements during the past year.

Simmons reported 1,200 new jobs over the past three years amounting to $200 million in inventory and $40 million in new payroll. He listed Cube Ice’s expansion and Superior Asphalt’s  current construction as current projects while also mentioning expansions at Serta Mattress in Batesville and United Solutions in Sardis as recent expansions.

The executive director also called for a unified effort in attracting industry stating, “It’s easy to see when it’s devisive. We don’t want that to happen here and it’s not happening here,” he said.

Simmons also talked about the Partnership staff being prepared to answer information requests from industrial prospects electronically with very little turnaround time. He also lauded the industrial park near the airport as one of the nicest in north Mississippi.

“I’m confident a new company from the north will be there,” Simmons said without revealing any details.
Following a buffet dinner at the National Guard Armory, five awards were presented by members of the organization’s board of directors.

William Pride presented the James Hal Moore Excellence in Education Award to Molly Hawkins, third grade Merit teacher at Batesville Intermediate School.

Brad Robison announced that the Citizenship Award went to Marni McKenzie, longtime teaching leader for Explorer’s Bible Study classes in Panola County.

Angela Clanton received the Small Business of the Year Award, presented by Justin Hill.

Michael Dunlap represented Dunlap and Kyle as the recipient of the Large Business of the Year Award, presented by Joe Azar.

Panola Partnership Ambassador Belinda Morris presented the Bobbie Jean Pounders Ambassador of the Year Award to Mary Troxler.

Morris also delivered a brief tribute to the memory of Dr. Joe Gardner, District 11 State Representative who died suddenly February 4. His widow, Mrs. Ella Gardner, was in attendance at the dinner.

Mississippi’s Miss Hospitality, Chandler Llana of Batesville, presented the 2013 Panola County Miss Hospitality, Olivia Battle, daughter of Arthur and Ollie Battle.

Olivia was selected in a competition March 3 and will follow in Chandler’s footsteps to represent Panola County in the state pageant this summer.

Olivia is a student at the University of Mississippi.

William Cole, who has served as Panola Partnership president for the past year, passed that responsibility on to Roy Girner at the close of the meeting.

(See additional photos, page A12.)

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