As we finished the 2013 regular session and just last week, the First Extraordinary Session of 2013, in which we were thrilled to aid in bringing the Yokohama Tire Plant to West Point, Mississippi (with its 2000 jobs), I could not help but reflect on some very positive developments going on in South Mississippi as well. It was only a little over a year ago when the Legislature worked to name a piece of Highway 84 just outside of Collins, Mississippi; for an outstanding citizen, Coach Ben B. James, who had lived and worked for so many years as part of the Covington County area. The GE (General Electric) plant will be officially dedicated on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, which will culminate several years’ worth of work to bring hundreds of jobs to South Mississippi. The corridor that so many of these GE employees will traverse to work and back home each day will carry them across the Coach Ben B. James Memorial Highway at the intersection of Highway 84 and Highway 588 heading to Ellisville, home of the GE Plant. The good citizens of Jones, Jefferson Davis, Smith and Covington Counties, among others, will have the awesome opportunity to earn a good living at a Fortune 500 Company right here in South Mississippi. I remember working on this economic development legislation just a few short years ago that helped to land this company site in Ellisville. I also was blessed to be able last session to assist in providing assistance to the Two Lakes project that is closely affiliated with this area in providing a wonderful housing opportunity for some of the folks who will be moving to our area for job opportunities at this industrial site.

My dear friend, Ben B. James, Jr., (son of Coach Ben B. James for whom the Highway was memorialized) and his wife, Laura Leigh, have refurbished his great grandparents’ (Bura and Myra Flynt) old farmhouse located just a few miles from the Highway in the Gilmer Community of Covington County. I have had the opportunity of visiting with many of the neighbors while enjoying the old fixed-up farmhouse and I cannot tell you the excitement that this Highway, Industrial Development and Two Lakes Project have injected into this tiny community. We often hear of the negative things that go on in Jackson and about those things which don’t get done amidst the bickering and partisan strife that does exist under the dome at times in the Capitol Building. However, it is appropriate when good things do happen to mention them as well, like the dedication of the GE plant, the naming of a Memorial Highway and the assistance to private developers who wish to provide quality housing opportunities for new citizens of our area. I appreciate families like the James family who have made it their life’s work to improve the community in which they grew up and continue to give back. I am reminded that Ben B. James, Jr., along with his dear wife, Laura Leigh Blackledge James, have enriched our lives in Jackson by volunteering to lead the Capitol Prayer and Ministry Foundation and the wonderful and uplifting Prayer Luncheons which inspire us all to do good works in Jackson. It is no small wonder that God blesses those efforts and the work back home referenced earlier in this article. These folks come from a long lineage of Christian stock. I believe God recognizes and blesses the efforts of His children.

Sen Joey Fillingane
4/29/13