Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 15, 2007

GE’s news latest positive publicity for Panola County Panola in positive light

Some publicity can’t be bought, it just comes as the result of other events and happenings.

Good publicity is what we want, but sometimes the bad is what we get.

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The Batesville area has been fortunate over the years as Batesville has been connected with positive publicity.

When Batesville Casket built a plant here in the 1980s, many who drove past the aesthetically pleasing site on Interstate 55 assume the company is located here.

It is. But just part of it. Little do many know that the headquarters of the company is located in Batesville, Indiana.

Money could not buy a better billboard for our city and area.

Remember Batesville lawyer Cliff Finch who first unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor and then was elected governor of the State of Mississippi?

“Who is that candidate and where is he from?” was probably asked over and over in the election years of 1971 and 1975.

Later another Batesville lawyer, Ronnie Musgrove, ran successfully for lieutenant governor then governor.

Once again, Batesville was associated with a winner and a leader as Musgrove lead the state for four years before an unsuccessful re-election bid for the state’s highest office.

By that time, the area was becoming notable for something other than politicians and factories — or maybe you could call it a football team factory — as the South Panola High School Tigers had begun a football dynasty.

The dynasty began around 1992 and continues through today, breaking and making state records with each and every consecutive win.

People were putting together that South Panola of Batesville was a team to be recognized not only in Mississippi, but on a national level.

Most recently, that same high school produced a second state championship team with a breakthrough fastpitch softball season that caught many of us locals as well as others across the state by surprise.

South Panola School District would have to raise the tax levy to buy the “ink” and publicity brought about by the phenomenal state champion softball team.

Which brings us to my point.

One of the world’s largest corporations, General Electric, recently announced that it was building a facility in Batesville.

And those folks aren’t making electric toasters out there. They’re making parts for jet engines.

Approximately one month before the official announcement, I set my Google Advance search on “GE Batesville.”

Once the announcement was made my e-mail alarm hasn’t stopped.

Media outlets throughout the world, including trade publications, have run news stories and press releases about GE deciding to build a jet engine component industry in Batesville, Mississippi, USA.

Is that significant?

I think it is. It’s hard to measure the worth in the short run, but we have benefitted greatly in the process and a shovel of dirt has yet to be turned.

This came about not because our community was trying to get worldwide recognition, but because someone was doing their job.

Hats off to Sonny Simmons and the Panola Partnership staff and members. They were prepped and ready when opportunity came knocking.

(Contact Rupert at