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Tag: Mississippi

June 22nd, 2016

Building the Next Silicon Valley

My friend Joe Stradinger of Edge Theory has often spoken of the idea of a “Silicon Delta.” Tech companies and a knowledge-based workforce in Mississippi. I think we all realize that the way Mississippi can “win the future” is through being highly competitive in the knowledge economy and growing/retaining/attracting more of these leading edge companies. The idea of a “Silicon Delta” is definitely exciting.

As it turns out, the next Silicon Valley may very well grow from, well, another valley: Water Valley, Mississippi.


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Base Camp Coding Academy in Water Valley, Mississippi. The town of Water Valley is quite a story in and of itself. A partnership of private development and city support has lead to a real renaissance in the rural city’s downtown area which has received a fair amount of national publicity. As amazing as the revival has been, I want to talk about a totally new development that really can be a sea change for rural Mississippi and a model for future workforce development.

I walked up the stairs into a rehabbed, row-style brick building in the center of Water Valley’s downtown area. It was built in the 1860s, and the floors are wonderful old hardwood. The character of the space is something that we can no longer duplicate – it comes only with the cycle of vibrancy, decline, and rebirth. Inside this building is a large classroom with what have to be 20-foot tall ceilings. A ping-pong table, large flat screen monitors, and whiteboards pay testament to the fact that this old building is a place for new tech.

Fourteen students with 14 laptops sit listening to an instructor giving a working lesson on the Python programming language. This in and of itself is not that remarkable. This same scene is being repeated – albeit in classrooms with less atmosphere – across the country. What is remarkable are three aspects:

  1. These students are fresh out of high school. Two of them are actually 17-years-old.
  2. This program is non-profit in a small relatively rural Mississippi town, not associated with a major university or job training center.
  3. These students will have the skills to be fully employable as highly-compensated software developers at the end of 12 months. Before most of them are old enough to sample the craft beer from the Yalobusha Brewery just down the street, they will likely be commanding starting salaries higher than the median Mississippi income.

Basecamp is the only program of its kind in Mississippi… and it is damn exciting. When we talk about changing the trajectory of this state, breaking community-based cyclic economic challenges, and putting our state ahead of the trending employment curve, it is programs like Base Camp that can play a – if not THE – pivotal role in making that happen. To put it another way, we are looking at a model that will be disruptive, exponentially positive, and a game changer.


Building the Pipeline

The story of how this academy came about is really one that would make Thomas Edison proud. The 1% “inspiration” factor was certainly necessary, but also obvious. The software/tech companies that call Mississippi home – such as C Spire and FNC and others – have a workforce problem. And this problem isn’t unique to Mississippi, either. The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that by the year 2020 (that’s less than 4 years, folks) the U.S. economy will have the need for 1.4 million “computer science” type jobs. Currently, only about 400,000 students are enrolled in programs or courses of study that would qualify them for these jobs. That’s a one-million job gap.

Why can’t and why shouldn’t Mississippi play a big role is filling this gap? We can certainly help with the dreadful diversity numbers that have plagued Silicon Valley for sometime now. Somewhere around 3% of the workforce are people of color or female. That’s a huge under-representation of the population. And it’s not because Silicon Valley has been exclusionary. Far from it. They WANT diversity in their companies. But they are also not in the workforce development business. That’s where a program like Basecamp comes in. And the 99% perspiration that several dedicated individuals and sponsoring organizations continue to put into making it a reality. They, in all likelihood, are creating a new pipeline to “Silicon Valley” jobs.

Understand that when I talk about “Silicon Valley,” I’m referring to the tech industry, not the place. I’ve been yelling about the “brain drain” in Mississippi for years now. No, it doesn’t do the state any good to develop human capital in the form of highly educated workers, only to have them leave the state. That’s the biggest challenge here, and where we run into the most resistance. To this, I’ll make the following rebuttal:

  • You have to accept the fact that you will inevitably lose some of the people that you educate. But it’s a numbers game. The more people you can expose to skills that command high wages, the more you will also KEEP in state. But…
  • We still have to do our part to make sure we are keeping as many as possible. Mississippi tech companies are ready, willing, and able to hire developers. It saves them time, money, and ultimately increases profits. But we have to make sure that a pipeline is established between industry and programs that can serve as a conduit for our Mississippi knowledge workers.

It really is a perfect combination of demand-side and supply-side economic theory. In-state companies have the need RIGHT NOW for new developers. The more these companies are able to grow based on their talent pool capacity, the more spin-offs, start-ups, and related tech companies will want to call Mississippi home. And they will be much more apt to do so because we are building the capacity to have the SUPPLY of knowledge workers necessary to make these enterprises successful.

Related Article: Coding Bootcamps Boom in North America


The Snowball

The issue has always been that a large swath of Mississippians who are place-bound – either by choice or situation – haven’t had many options for upwardly mobility. The “remote” economy has turned that paradigm on its head. A 20-year-old in Clarksdale can write code of the same quality as someone in Cupertino. The compensation our Clarksdale coder makes will go a lot farther here than in the Bay Area, as well. So there’s incentive to stay. As that person stays and adds to the local economy, additional revenue flows in which can in turn be used to fund infrastructure, education, and other projects necessary to produce an environment that attracts additional commerce.

With this strategy, we may have hit on the secret sauce that snowballs our way out of the economic doldrums.

A project my agency helped to found – Kids Code Mississippi – has partnered with the non-profit Springboard To Opportunities organization to launch a summer-long coding academy for kids living in federally subsidized multifamily housing units across Mississippi. Concurrent with this Cyber Summer program, we recently held “two gen” workshops at two apartment complex locations in Jackson, Mississippi. One was for mothers/daughters, the other for fathers/sons. At each of these events, we had a guest speaker address the young people who were participating. Sheena Allen, founder of Sheena Allen Apps, spoke to the girls’ group. Terence Williams – the only Mississippi-based app developer to be invited by Apple to the 2016 World Wide Developer’s Conference – spoke to the guys.

These are two young Mississippians who are successful and building their businesses in Mississippi, whom I personally admire. The are literally the picture of how Mississippi can become a hotbed in the 21st century knowledge economy. It is an inspiration for our kids to see that people CAN do it, and can do it here. The snowball gets a little larger…

image image

The “Hack2Gen” workshop attendees we recently held for Kids Code Mississippi.


The Big Mo

The Base Camp Coding Academy is incredible. It is a life-changing opportunity, and potentially a model for Mississippi leapfrogging other regions in the knowledge economy. Programs like Kids Code Mississippi continue to generate awareness of the opportunity that exists for all Mississippians, and especially among communities who need opportunity the most. To its credit, the Mississippi Department of Education has been aggressive in implementing its CS4MS pilot program to get computer science incorporated into public school curriculum sooner rather than later. It feels like we have a lot of momentum. It feels as if Mississippi isn’t behind the curve, but maybe in some ways actually leading it. Let’s keep it going.

My plea to fellow Mississippians – let the kids who are interested in digital skills know how important what they are doing is for all of us. It is tough for an 18-year-old to grasp the concept that they hold the key to changing the fate of an entire population. We send kids of the same age to foreign lands to protect our freedom. Let’s not diminish the contributions of those who are taking steps to create an economic environment that is growing and vibrant. We’re all in this together, and we’re only as strong as our weakest link. Tired and cliched, but ever so true.

#Create4Good #Create4MS #Code4MS

October 8th, 2015

#ReThinkHighSchool can start here in JXN!

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Ok folks, this is a big deal. If you’re not familiar with the XQ Super School Project, please check it out. October 15-16, the XQ Roadshow WE THINK Booth will be in JXN at the Mississippi Children’s Museum. The project is looking for “audacious” ideas for improving public high schools across America. Specifically:

XQ is a nationwide project that calls on students, teachers, administrators, community leaders, artist, designers and entrepreneurs to create the new American high school. The XQ Roadshow will travel to New York, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland and Jackson, Mississippi to engage the community in rethinking public high schools and improving the nation’s educational system.

powell-jobs-300x408-221x300Looks like Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson really were on to something. Let me underscore again, this is a big deal. The project is being championed by Laurene Powell Jobs, philanthropist and wife of the late innovation giant Steve Jobs. Powell Jobs is putting up $50 million in grant funds to modernize and revolutionize high school education. The period for #RethinkHighSchool proposals is open through November 15. Finalists will be chosen in April 2016 and winners announced in August 2016. Did I mention that JXN is one of only SEVEN cities the Road Show is visiting?

“We will partner with winning teams and provide them expert support and a fund of $50 million to support at least five schools over the next five years to turn their ideas into real Super Schools,” the organization posted on its website.

About the WE THINK Booth:


We know that many students can provide amazing #RethinkHighSchool ideas, but that not all can attend the roundtable discussion.  The XQ Institute’s WE THINK Booth will be located at the Mississippi Children’s Museum on October 15th and 16th from 10am-5pm.   The WE THINK Booth is an interactive display that allows communities to record their ideas and share how they would #RethinkHighSchool.  All students over age 13, educators and program leaders are encouraged to come and share ideas on how to reimagine the American high school experience!

We strongly encourage EVERYONE who is passionate about next generation leadership and education to get to the Mississippi Children’s Museum October 15-16, 9a.m. – 5p.m. We’re calling on the people of JXN and Mississippi – let’s show everyone how serious and dedicated we are at leading the way for 21st century education.

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August 12th, 2015

Mississippi in Space

A big part of #MWBSpaceWeek is recognizing Mississippi’s historic and ongoing contributions to the American and International aerospace industry.

As of today, virtually every major commercial airliner in service has a major component that was either manufacturered and/or tested in Mississippi. All of the Saturn V rocket engines that carried Astronauts to the moon were tested at Stennis Space Center, as were the shuttle engines. The moon buggy tires were tested at the Corps experiment station in Vicksburg.

“Man may set foot on Mars, but he’ll go through Hancock County to do it!” – Gov. Bryant

Mississippi has a storied history in manned flight development and manufacturing stretching back to the earliest days of productive aviation in 1917. The future looks even brighter. Private companies sub as SpaceX have secured agreements to utilize testing facilities at Stennis. On 8/13 the new NASA SLS (Space Launch System) rocket will be tested at Stennis- an event that we’ll be broadcasting live over our social media properties (which is what spurred #MWBSpaceWeek in the first place).  This is the propulsion system (i.e. rocket) that will power the first manned mission to Mars.

As I’ve heard Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant remark many times, “Man may set foot on Mars, but he’ll go through Hancock County to do it!”

Check out this neat infographic on Mississippi’s achievements in aerospace courtesy of our friends at the Mississippi Development Authority. Enjoy Mississippi in Space day. Make it your mission to tell at least one person about Mississippi’s pivotal role in our past and future aerospace milestones. And stay tuned for much more to come from #MWBSpaceWeek.




June 23rd, 2015

MWB Creative Fire Podcast: Craft Beer, Matthew McLaughlin, & TECH JXN

On this edition of the MWB Creative Fire Podcast, host Tim Mask talks with “Craft Beer” attorney Matthew McLaughlin about the challenges and opportunities of the burgeoning craft beer industry in Mississippi. We also give a brief overview of the exciting upcoming TECH JXN student hackathon and innovation townhall summit happening in Jackson June 30 – July 1.

June 9th, 2015

New MWB Creative Fire Podcast w/ Chef Tom Ramsey

Checkout the new MWB Creative Fire podcast. In this episode we talk the culinary side of the creative economy with raconteur Chef Tom Ramsey. We’ve also got an update on the Fast Forward Mississippi Initiative. Check it out.

April 21st, 2015

80/20, Pecha Kucha, Play-Doh, and purple hair.

At the risk of the MWB Blog looking increasingly like a tavern, I feel compelled to write a postmortem on our latest #MWBeer30 event. Jon Fisher, Donnie Brimm, and Bethany Cooper from Oxford-based FNC gave a great talk reviewing many of the practices and protocols their company has put in place designed to stir innovation and creativity. I think attendees of this event (4/17) will agree that it really was inspiring to hear a Silicon Valley-esque approach to innovation being undertaken by a company who is committed to being headquartered in Mississippi.

Like I’ve said a million times before, Silicon Valley was an apple orchard 60 years ago. There’s no reason we can’t turn the Delta, red clay hills, pine woods, gulf coast, and mini-Appalachian landscapes that are Mississippi into something at least equally as impressive. And I don’t want to gloss over the fact that FNC – like so many other thriving entities – is committed to a robust corporate headquarters in our state. The company counts the majority of the top 20 banks in the U.S. as clients utilizing their applications. They are rapidly expanding operations into Brazil and Canada. I have a feeling new products are in the offing. FNC basically invented a category and is the market leader. Not bad for Oxford, Mississippi. Heck, that wouldn’t be bad for Oxford, England.

But back to the main point, the latest #MWBeer30. We had a great crowd attend representing Innovate Mississippi, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Clarion Ledger, EatShopPlayLiveJXN, C Spire, and various other highly innovative individuals. After a brief announcement about TEDxJackson 2015 (coming 11.12.15) and watching the newest Star Wars Trailer (yes, it looks uber cool) the folks from FNC took the floor. Here’s what we learned from their 6 minute 40 second presentation:

1. A 6-minute, 40-second, 20 slide presentation is called “Pecha Kucha.”


Here’s Jon Fisher from FNC getting into their talk. Many of you may be familiar with the “Pecha Kucha” approach. I was not. This is a presentation that consists of a total of 20 slides and each slide lasts no more than 20 seconds. Jon’s pictured here taking us “through the wormhole” that is FNC’s innovation process. The story I was told was that #MWBeer30 was the first time these guys had used Pecha Kucha in a talk… and they didn’t practice, either. They really had it down seamlessly, so I don’t know that I necessarily believe that “we didn’t do a run-through” story. Either way, they nailed it. This was a highly effective and engaging way to present information, so three cheers on the style points!

2. Play-Doh isn’t just for kids anymore.

MWBeer30_Bethany MWBeer30_Bethany2















Bethany Cooper of FNC talked specifically about some of the (dare I use the phrase) out-of-the-box exercises that the company utilizes to get the creative juices flowing. These include actual Play-Doh planning sessions. Don’t be skeptical. There’s a reason four-year-olds think they can do anything.

Other hyper-cool practices FNC has implemented include developing and maintaining their own internal Innovation Team, an annual all-night hackathon called The Forge (props to Jon Fisher for having a product from The Forge now in development), and their implementation of the “80/20” work principle. The latter of these, being a concept pioneered by 3M and really made famous by Google, roughly states that an employee has the freedom to spend 20% of their time working on pet projects they believe will contribute to a company’s mission, outside of “sanctioned” job functions.

3. People will show up and talk… for beer… (and for other reasons, too).

Many, many apologies to FNC, but I didn’t learn until they pulled into our world headquarters about 2:45 p.m. that they had actually missed out on the annual FNC crawfish boil to some speak to the attendees of #MWBeer30. I hate the thought of making someone miss their own event like that, but I will also say that we’re not BYOB. We had great craft beer (much of it brewed here in the great state of Mississippi) on hand for sampling. There are so many innovative people in Jackson and across Mississippi that we feel honored to provide a forum to evangelize the growing nature of our state’s knowledge economy, the great creative assets that we possess, and the how companies, organizations, and individuals are really fostering a culture of innovation.



Tasha Bibb (top) and Lynlee Honea (bottom) were among a contingent from Innovate Mississippi who attended #MWBeer30. Innovate Mississippi is a great organization who are champions of innovation culture and entrpreneurialism across our state. Always very glad to see these folks in attendance.

4. Mississippians are engaged and ready to support our knowledge-based companies. 

Plain and simple, we (Mississippians) get a bad rap. “We’re a backwater…” “we really can read and write…” “thank goodness for Arkansas…”.  Well we say phooey on all that nonsense. And apologies to our friends from the Travelers State, no disrespect intended. I’m just trying to convey the point here that we’re poised and ready to springboard into a prominent place in the 21st century.


Here’s Donnie Brimm from FNC talking. Donnie and the rest of the FNC crew got peppered with questions after their 6 minutes and 40 seconds were done. And I don’t mean peppered in a “Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes GOTCHA” kind of way. The people at #MWBeer30 were genuinely curious and supportive of  great knowledge-based business like FNC and wanted to know more about the industry, the development aspect, and especially what kind of stumbling blocks had the company encountered in implementing a real culture of innovation.

They say that an indicator of creativity and intelligence is the ability to ask great questions. That being said, we certainly had a highly creative and intelligent group of people who attend #MWBeer30. Being a connoisseur of great craft beer is simply a plus. By the way, our craft beer is courtesy of the great guys at LD’s Beer Run, serving a huge selection of local, regional, and national craft brands. Stop by and see them if you’re ever in the neighborhood.



5. Star Wars The Force Awakens looks super cool.


One of the warm-up acts for FNC’s presentation was screening of the new trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To quote Mississippi icon Marshall Ramsey, “I watched it at least a dozen times and I felt my heart swell when Han said, “Chewie, we’re home.” To quote MWB VP Keith Fraser, “OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod.” Yes, it certainly sends chills throughout your spine. The folks gathering at MWB world heaquarters gave a standing ovation after the trailer. Well, technically they were already standing, but I feel certain if they could have levitated, they would have.

6. It’s ok to hire people with purple hair.

This was actually a happy little coincidence of parallelism. A couple of years ago FNC CEO Bill Rayburn was giving the luncheon keynote talk at Innovate Mississippi’s annual luncheon. During his impassioned delivery (those of you who have ever heard Mr. Rayburn give a talk know exactly what I’m talking about), he made the statement – I’m paraphrasing here – that in the new economy we have to get over not hiring people because of things like tattoos and purple hair and instead be meritorious in our approach. Basically, hire the most creative, innovative, and driven person for the job at hand.


Well MWB new hire Erica Robinson just happened to show up at her first #MWBeer30 sporting a rather glamorous “Friday wig,” as she calls it. Everybody loved it. She’s a great addition to our creative staff and innovative culture and certainly the embodiment of how not to let individualism and self expression be an impediment to raising your organization’s intellectual talent. Can’t wait to see this Friday’s colour-de-jour.

In fact, one of the best TEDx talks I’ve heard was given by purple-haired Heather Crawford at the TEDxAntioch event I also spoke at in 2014. Check out Heather’s talk here, titled “You really ARE what you eat.”

Correction, 1:37 P.M. Also do not be afraid to hire people who’s names are spelled in unconventional ways. I just realized her name is actually “Hether Crawford.” Our apologies, Hether.


So anyway, a great time at April’s #MWBeer30. Again, many many thanks to FNC for sending down some of their most impressive folks to give a great 6-minute, 40-second presentation. We’re already working on the agenda for #MWBeer30 in May, so if you want to keep up with this and other #MWBeer30 events, please opt into our MWB Tap special alter system. Cheers!


Ray Harris (MWB), Tasha Bibb & Lynlee Honea (Innovate Mississippi), various unidentifiable pairs legs.

All photography via MWB’s Tate Nations.

April 14th, 2015

MWBeer30 with FNC

We have a great #MWBeer30 lined up for April. The good folks from FNC in Oxford are stopping by the MWB World Headquarters to give a talk about innovation drivers they have incorporated into their company. If you’re interested in the 80/20 model, intern innovation, hackathons, or various other creative strategies for building a corporate culture of innovation, please join us 4/17 at 3:30-ish.

Oh, and as always, there will be a great selection of Mississippi craft beer on hand for sampling.

See you then!

Stay up to day with the latest #MWBeer30 events by subscribing to the MWB Tap.

February 23rd, 2015

Foundation for Building the Knowledge Economy

MWB has been involved with efforts to help stop the brain drain that Mississippi is experiencing and to focus on digital literacy and the high level skills that will help us to maintain a thriving knowledge-based workforce in the 21st century. Our support isn’t totally altruistic, although the cause believe does benefit all.

We are an agency headquartered in Mississippi. Most of our business comes from other Mississippi businesses or organizations. So goes the fate of our state, the climate of our creativity, and the depth of our innovation, so goes our company. If Mississippi becomes a major player in the knowledge economy, so do we.

The Mississippi House of Representatives is currently considering a bill (HB 1601) which would provide a state personal income tax holiday for five years to recent graduates of Mississippi colleges or universities who take a qualifying job in-state. The purpose of the bill is to stop us from losing our intellectual capital. The goal of the overall movement is to build a viable knowledge workforce. One that will help us be a leader in a full blown global knowledge economy.

Read how this bill is projected to impact our economy here.

As part of Mississippi’s creative economy, strong advocates of our culture of innovation, and full participants in our future’s vested interests, we strongly encourage other Mississippi businesses and business leaders to take a look at this piece of potential game-changing legislation.

February 17th, 2015

The healthcare economy in Mississippi: MWB Craft Beer Friday 2/27


UPDATE 2/25/15:  Unfortunately craft beer legal expert Matthew McLaughlin has a conflict and will have to make a speaking appearance at MWBeer30 later this year. However, Butler Snow counsel and former gubernatorial policy advisor Tray Hairston will be on-hand to give a brief talk about the exciting things happening in healthcare in Mississippi, and the concept of healthcare as an economic driver.  Join us at 3:30-ish, Friday, February 27th at MWB’s world headquarters for a great line up of Mississippi craft beer, innovative discussions, and some Mississippi iconic-in-the-making photos taken by MWB Producer of Multimedia Tate Nations.

Great Mississippi from the folks at LD’s Beer Run will be available for sampling.

To stay up with the next #MWBeer30 event and learn about topics discussed at previous gatherings, sign-up for #MWBeer30 alerts. Sign up today and get a free beverage at our next event!

(OK so the beverages are always free. You should sign-up, anyway).



February 10th, 2015

Happy birthday, T-Man.



Monday, February 9th was a special day in Mississippi. Terrance the Rat, spokesrat of the Reject All Tobacco! campaign, celebrated his 16th birthday. Well, 16 in people years, anyway. Now that Terrance is old enough to drive, I think it’s about time we honored this Mississippi icon by a never before seen “Behind the Fur” article.

An entire generation of Mississippi kids have grown up knowing that R.A.T. doesn’t stand for “Robotic Action Turtles,” or “Really Angry Turnips.” It stands for “Reject All Tobacco,” and kids have spent the last 16 years repeating Terrance’s mantra. I was fortunate enough to begin my tenture at MWB just as the RAT campaign was about to launch. During the development of Mississippi’s ground breaking tobacco counter marketing campaign, it quickly became evident that there were two radically different youth audiences: the teenage 12 – 17 year-olds (we coined this group the ‘Age of Rebellion… for obvious reasons) and the pre-teen 6 – 11 year-olds. We called the latter group the “Age of Reason” because extensive primary and secondary research revealed that the group, generally speaking:

  1. Were accepting of facts, statistics, and analytical reasoning,
  2. Were anxious to repeat what they learned to family and friends, and
  3. Could actually be behavioral influencers to older siblings and especially parents.


It was clear that these age groups were radically different in terms of what type of messaging to use, the kinds of concepts that would be effective, and how these messages should be delivered. What was less clear was how to approach this. While it seems like a no-brainer now, things weren’t so cut and dry way back in ’99. Although Mississippi’s tobacco counter-marketing effort was relatively well funded, it certainly wasn’t infinite. And the tobacco program itself had to support a multitude of youth and adult tobacco prevention/cessation services beyond just the counter marketing element. Most experts at the time believed that a messaging campaign targeting pre-teens, especially kids under 10, was a waste of time. Conventional thinking was that tobacco counter marketing wouldn’t really “stick” and that the most immediate impact to tobacco prevalence would be to focus counter marketing almost entirely on the teens.

Fortunately the public health professionals in Mississippi had a greater vision. I shutter to think now that Terrance came close to not being born. Thank goodness Mississippi didn’t buy into conventional wisdom and charted our own course.

The rest, as they say, is history.

YTS2014And measurable history, at that. According to the 2014 Mississippi Youth Tobacco Survey, smoking among public middle school students has been reduced by 80% since 1998. To really understand what that means, let’s deal in real numbers: 18,492 fewer Mississippians will become smokers since Terrance and the RAT campaign were born in 1999. Over the course of their lives, these people will miss less days of work, get less sick, not have to deal with disease and death related to tobacco use, and have children who are far less likely to use tobacco compared to kids whose parents smoke. You don’t have to think about it too long to realize the positive and cyclical snowball effect that this has on both the health and economic climates for Mississippi.

The year of Terrance’s birth 23% of all Mississippi public middle school children – nearly a quarter of the population – were current cigarette smokers. Today, just over 4% fall into that category. What a difference a Rat can make.

TerranceCDI’m also personally proud to have had some small involvement in the perpetuation of what has become a real Mississippi icon. Terrance the Rat has his own song & dance troupes that perform at schools and events across that state. He has appeared in several interactive games and activities, a children’s storybook and has tagged off dozens of TV commercials. The guy even has his own CD! At one point during the mid-2000’s, ad tracking data showed that Terrance had a higher brand recall rate among Mississippi kids than a certain other, and much older, cartoon rodent (eat your heart out, Mick!).

Terrance has changed somewhat through the years. Really astute observers will note that he’s slimmed up a little (he now enjoys PeanutbutterPastaLight™) and his collection of friends has grown to include a dragon, a skunk, and even a little sister. The message, however, remains the same. Tobacco is bad. It will hurt you, and those you care about. You better tell somebody. And Mississippi kids have been, for 16 years.  Happy birthday, Terrance.



I’d like to add that RAT campaign, when first launched, really was unconventional and flew in the face of what many experts recommended. I think that too often in the area of public policy in general – and public health in specific – we tend to always take a “best practices” approach. In other words, we’re not comfortable implementing something until it has been proven and vetted somewhere else. There is NOTHING wrong with this, let me stress. Why invent the wheel if it isn’t broken, right?

Well sometimes the case calls for inventing a better wheel. After all, if nobody ever tried anything new, there would never be any “best practices” in the first place.  Entrepreneurs will say the secret to success is to fail fast and fail cheap. What they really mean is don’t be afraid to take calculated chances, as that is the only way that you can positively change the status quo. The RAT campaign and Mississippi’s work in tobacco counter marketing is a testament to such.