May 23, 2019  

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Mississippi Public Universities Help Economic Development Engines Run

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Read more about The University of Southern Mississippi’s economic impact here:

In economic development terms, landing either big or small fish is no easy task. It takes a team approach, involving local and state economic developers, local and state elected officials and many others. Mississippi Public Universities play an important role on this team.

Working in partnership with many private businesses in a range of fields, the University of Mississippi has unique assets and research expertise that can help existing Mississippi businesses innovate and be successful. The State Office for the Mississippi Small Business Development Centers is located at The University of Mississippi. The office connects both startups and existing businesses to a network of local, state and federal economic development resources in addition to providing workshops on operating and growing a profitable small business.

The Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Initiative works with University of Mississippi students and faculty to build actionable partnerships with Mississippi communities. These partnerships will increase entrepreneurship and promote economic development in rural Mississippi communities. The CEED Initiative is funded with support from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.

Workforce readiness is a key component of economic development. Alcorn State University worked with local officials to help Adams County become an American Council on Testing (ACT) officially certified Work Ready Community. The first Mississippi county to earn the designation, it helps industrial prospects to determine the skill level of the workforce when considering an area for expansion or development. The certification process allows communities and individuals to identify the strengths they can promote and weaknesses they can address.

University research also helps identify needs, such as infrastructure, that must be addressed to place Mississippi in the place of greatest opportunity. A recent study conducted by Roberto Gallardo, an associate Extension professor in the Center for Technology Outreach at Mississippi State University, found Mississippi has the lowest broadband access in the nation, with 36 percent of the state’s residents lacking the infrastructure. He concluded that if 15 percent of currently unserved Mississippi households adopt broadband technology, the economic benefits to the state would amount to $310 million over the next 15 years. If 45 percent adopt broadband, the economic benefits would triple to $931 in that timeframe.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Trent Lott National Center for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship is the catalyst for a university-wide focus on economic development service and research. The Center works with public entities, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals to plan and implement activities to generate jobs and income. Special consideration is given to rural, impoverished areas of Mississippi. Offering expertise in strategic planning and leadership development; education and training; community analysis and research; and other technical support, much of the Center’s work is determined by requests for assistance from clients.

Mississippi State University plays a fundamental role in recruiting new businesses to the state, working in partnership with the Mississippi Development Authority to showcase the state's workforce readiness and labor force strength thanks to comprehensive analysis by the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, as well Mississippi's advanced technology assets, including the High Performance Computing Collaboratory in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park.

Since opening in 1987, Cochran Research Park now encompasses 272 acres, features 10 buildings, and is home to more than 1,600 employees working in cutting-edge research corporations, small businesses, spin-off companies, data centers, government offices, and university centers and institutes.