Mississippi State's ApproachElsewhere in Mississippi, signs of emerging industrial activity also are evident, and again, the role higher education plays as an economic development catalyst cannot be overstated. Mississippi State University's Bagley College of Engineering works closely with area development executives to bring industry to the Starkville area. And new ventures are in place at MSU, such as the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS), that will help establish Mississippi as a center of automotive expertise. The center is located in the Mississippi Research and Technology Park adjacent to MSU; a satellite CAVS site is located near the Nissan plant in Canton.
Under the direction of Dr. J. Donald Trotter, associate vice president for strategic initiatives, researchers are working on improving manufacturing and design processes that ultimately will reduce product-development time in the automotive industry. Much of the work planned for the center is based on Trotter's experience in the integrated circuits industry and in fundamental technologies that can be applied in various industries. Three main areas of research are to be undertaken at the center, which is part of MSU's Engineering Research Center (ERC): computational or virtual manufacturing and design, enterprise systems and human engineering and alternative power systems. Another research thrust involves optimizing structures for meeting certain crashworthiness objectives. The ERC, through funding from the National Science Foundation, specializes in computational engineering, scientific visualization and geospatial information products, among other areas.
As CAVS ramps up operations the finishing touches were being applied to the facilities in November 2003 much of the initial research involves Nissan, which intends to significantly reduce product-development time. "We are committed to helping Nissan, and we are committed to creating jobs in Mississippi," says Trotter. "There has been a huge drain in manufacturing jobs. Our task is to find ways we can use Mississippi workers to compete globally."
Trotter says that at Nissan only about 5 percent of the cost of assembling a car is in labor. Not long ago, executives had to decide whether to expand the Nissan plant in Mexico or the new Canton plant. "Well, if Mexico gave them the labor, all we would have to do is improve productivity by 5 percent," says Trotter. "The engineering activity we are involved in plays right into that."
Engineering MagnetMSU has plenty of other high-tech attributes of interest to industry in search of such expertise. It is one of just four universities in the U.S. and the only public one to offer a bachelors of science degree in software engineering. And it is ranked competitively with other institutions in supercomputing clusters.
But as at Southern Miss, Mississippi State's leadership knows the value of exercising its economic development leverage to the betterment of the university and the local economy. Dr. Wayne Bennett, Dean of MSU's Bagley College of Engineering, regularly meets with representatives of companies considering sites in Mississippi.
"In American Eurocopter's case, they were not looking to hire a lot of engineers," Bennett recalls. "But when I met with them, I pointed out that they would want to hire bright people, and those people would want opportunities for their children and spouses. I noted that if they locate within driving distance of a place like Mi ssissippi State, then you have tremendous spousal employment opportunity, a ready pool of people who might want to work part time or as interns and access to 49 faculty members who are registered engineers and can do consultation. For that matter, the whole faculty is available." (For more on the American Eurocopter location, see the Mississippi Spotlight in the January 2003 issue of Site Selection.)
Bennett says access to such facilities as a scanning electron microscope or nuclear magnetic imaging or supercomputing is another draw for high-tech companies.
The dean is no stranger to the world of economic development. Prior to coming to MSU, Bennett worked at Clemson University in South Carolina, where he worked closely with state development officials and helped recruit a number of Japanese industries into the state as well as BMW to the Spartanburg area.
"A school such as Mississippi State is a very powerful economic development tool," says Bennett.
A case in point is Viking Range Corp.'s 36,800-sq.-ft. (3,400-sq.-m.) R&D center, for which ground will soon be broken at the Mississippi Research and Technology Park. Access to MSU's engineering resources was the overriding criterion driving the site search. Greenwood, Miss.-based Viking Range manufactures kitchen appliances for residential and commercial use.
Research conducted at the center will include all facets of engineering and advanced product development. Employees at another company based at the park, Diagnostic Instrumentation and Analysis Laboratory Group, will likely collaborate with Viking on instrumentation, data analysis and measurement.
"We also intend for MSU's Ergonomics Center, within the Department of Industrial Engineering, to help Viking focus on ergonomics the human interface, the fit and feel of Viking products," says Viking CEO Fred Carl. "In addition, mechanical, electrical and other engineering disciplines at MSU will work with Viking to develop new and innovative technologies."
This collaboration is the main reason the facility is to be based in Starkville, and the collaboration is not specific to the R&D project, which will employ about 35.
"We have found them to be an exceptional institution of higher learning, and especially adept in the technology arena," says Carl. "Viking is committed to Mississippi, so our alliance with MSU was a natural fit."
©2004 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. SiteNet data is from many sources and not warranted to be accurate or current.