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Strengthening the ‘Heart’ of the Economy

Regions Bank joins Mississippi State University to equip family business owners for sustainable success.

Strengthening the ‘Heart’ of the Economy

Regions Bank joins Mississippi State University to equip family business owners for sustainable success.

Published 12-13-23

Submitted by Regions Bank

Collage of groups of people posed, listening to a seminar, and in front of the group speaking.

By Veleka Finch

Dr. Laura Marler grew up in Pineville, Louisiana, watching her father start and grow his auto body paint distributing business. What she witnessed made an enduring impact.

“From as early as I can remember, my father was my career role model,” Marler said. “I was impacted by seeing his strong work ethic, never hearing him complain about long hours or financial sacrifice, and understanding that education was a staple in my future. He set an example I can only aspire to.”

The family business expanded and now includes stores across South Louisiana. Marler’s brother is now part of the executive team. And the company has been mentioned in a Harvard Business Review article.

Today, Marler is paying forward her father’s example in her role as head of Mississippi State University’s Department of Management and Information Systems. She oversees strategic research on family business, has been published in top management journals, and co-founded the Family Business Education Initiative (FBEI) in 2018.

FBEI is a half-day seminar series offered multiple times per year, free of charge to family business owners in North Mississippi and surrounding regions.

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Led by Starkville Market Executive Justin Casano (far right), Regions Bank has served as lead donor for Mississippi State University’s Family Business Education Initiative since 2022.

Seminar topics have included:

  • Human Resources
  • Legal Issues
  • Staffing
  • Information Security
  • Succession

FBEI focuses on small business, because 90 percent of small businesses in Mississippi are family owned.

“With MSU’s E-Center resources available for startups, we identified a gap in the support and outreach for existing businesses that have begun to grow,” Marler said. “We are trying to help these small family firms continue to grow and sustain their businesses for generations to come.“

Regions Bank has been FBEI’s lead donor since 2022. The bank also supplies subject matter authorities to inform FBEI participants about business trends.

“FBEI perfectly aligns with Regions Bank’s priority of creating inclusive prosperity in the communities we serve,” said Justin Casano, market executive for Regions in Starkville. “We want to help educate more small business owners to provide them a pathway to financial stability and a sustainable future. FBEI is the perfect partnership to accomplish that success.”

The next FBEI session is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 1, from 8:30 a.m. to noon in McCool Hall – Room 208A.

Lunch will be provided.

The following topics will be covered:

  • Parker Ellen, Mississippi State University – 
    Smarter Choices, Better Business: Developing Decision-Making Skills
  • Jeff Taylor, Head of Forensic Fraud, Regions Bank – 
    Fighting Commercial Fraud in 2023

“Protecting liquidity is vitally important in today’s economy,” said Casano. “If a fraudster steals or disrupts a business’s working capital, it could cause serious operational problems.”

“Jeff Taylor will give best practices on what a small business owner can do to help minimize their risk,” he added.

Marler says this type of outreach impacts the “heart” of the Mississippi economy.

“Small businesses are key to providing employment opportunities and advancing economic growth,” she proclaimed. “I’m honored to share knowledge in an applied way.”

“We create FBEI sessions with information attendees can implement after they attend outreach sessions,” Marler added. “The College of Business is committed to supporting local businesses. We are proud that – with the support of Regions Bank – FBEI can help attendees build a solid plan for their family business and their family’s future.”

Contact Katie Ruth at for FBEI registration information.

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Regions Bank

Regions Bank

Regions Financial Corporation (NYSE:RF), with  $147 billion  in assets, is a member of the S&P 500 Index and is one of the nation’s largest full-service providers of consumer and commercial banking, wealth management, and mortgage products and services. Regions serves customers across the South, Midwest and  Texas , and through its subsidiary, Regions Bank, operates more than 1,300 banking offices and 2,000 ATMs. Regions Bank is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC. Additional information about Regions and its full line of products and services can be found at

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