Q. How are technology sectors growing?
A. Our technology drivers are the auto industry in advanced manufacturing, alternative energy, and geospatial technology. The announcement of Toyota opening a $1.3 billion facility in 2010 employing 2,000 workers has affected the supply chain and work force development and is helping our advanced manufacturers bring out some of the their technology skills particularly related to process technology. This project links our Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, our organization, Toyota, and the existing Nissan plant supply chain.
Related to the auto industry, a state-of-the-art, next generation steel mill, SeverCorr, last October opened a $600 million facility, containing about 1 million square feet, in the Columbus area and created 450 jobs. As an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), its strategic partnership with the auto industry creates a unique industrial environment where both industries can be successful alone, but located in close proximity they also produce a strategic supplier arrangement. The facility stimulates relocation of supply-chain partners that support them as well.
In the energy cluster, we are specifically looking at cellulosic technology, converting switch grass, wood chips, and biomass into ethanol and biodiesel products. We're exploring sources that fit into certain economic formulas so that instead of driving up costs, we're actually reducing costs. We are looking at proof-of-concept and economic feasibility on a dozen projects with respect to using locally-based biomass materials for energy production.
Geospatial technology around the state stems from NASA's Stennis field center on the coast, which utilizes satellite-based aerial mapping for homeland security, precision farming, waterway management, and other software-developed technologies based on satellite information. Another niche results from Hurricane Katrina, research on the effects and how to mitigate hurricane outcomes with proper planning and placement of infrastructure and forward-planning applications.
Q. What legislation will spur innovation?
A. In January 2008, we were able to launch the $10 million New Venture Fund that gives us the opportunity to co-invest with those embarking on technology-based enterprises, as well as a $2 million R&D fund that allow us to work with existing technology-based companies that develop products and services.
As global markets expand, we are tied into supplying and supporting that demand. We're a small state, but we're on target.