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Southern Exposure Equals High-Tech Innovation

This in-depth look at 14 southern states shows how technology is sparking new developments in a variety of industries - some traditional, others decidedly 21st century - and how state and local governments are supporting the initiatives.

Southern Tech Sites 2009
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Kentucky's comprehensive plan for energy technology involves the state's natural resources, manufacturing base, and research institutions. The goals include a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2025; greatly expanded research into carbon capture and sequestration; and the development of a large coal-to-liquids industry. The plan's initiatives are estimated to create 30,000 to 40,000 new Kentucky jobs.

In bioscience, Battelle and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) named Kentucky as one of only six states in the nation with a growth rate in academic bioscience research of more than 50 percent, and one of just eight states with a  greater than 20 percent increase in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for overall academic bioscience R&D.

The commonwealth, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Louisville have partnered with Argonne National Laboratory to establish a National Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center. The advanced battery technologies for vehicles will:

• foster energy independence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and boost the economy by making it easier for federal labs, universities, manufacturers, suppliers and end users to collaborate;

• develop advanced manufacturing technology to reduce advanced battery production costs; and

• acceleratie the commercialization of technologies developed at national laboratories and universities.
In June 2009, Northern Kentucky University (NKU) broke ground on a new $55 million Center for

Informatics. Largely funded with state dollars, the center will include NKU's Center for Health Informatics, which will conduct research on effective communication of new healthcare technologies. It will feature a Computer Assisted Virtual Environment (CAVE) for product development research, and a digital auditorium that will be capable of running complex simulations for homeland security, computer security, and financial security applications.

Also in June, Governor Steve Beshear signed House Bill 3, streamlining and modernizing Kentucky's business incentive programs into a single, more flexible tax incentive program. The Kentucky Business Investment (KBI) program provides income tax credits and wage assessments for new and existing agribusinesses, regional and national headquarters, manufacturing companies, and non-retail service and technology related companies that locate or expand operations in Kentucky.

Focusing on digital media, aerospace, and advanced materials, Louisiana now ranks among the 10 fastest-growing states for high-tech employment, according to TechAmerica's 12th annual Cyberstates report. Mark Lewis, president of the Louisiana Technology Council, points out Louisiana's gain of 4,349 high-tech jobs between 2002 and 2007, up 11.3 percent. Most of the growth was in engineering and research and development laboratories. Lewis notes that the statistical gains are particularly optimistic because they occurred "at a time when the country as a whole lost 71,863 high-tech jobs, down 1.2 percent."

Several large prospects became realities this year. 3001 International, Inc., provider of geospatial data production and analysis recently acquired by Northrop Grumman Corporation, is consolidating the current Slidell office and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi into a new 20,000 square-foot facility in Slidell that is expected to bring 85 high-tech jobs, including 50 new positions, to St. Tammany Parish.

Also, in the light of NASA's impending transition from the Space Shuttle to the development of new spacecraft for the Constellation Program, NASA has awarded Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. the manufacturing support and facility operations contract for operational management of its Michoud Assembly Facility, taking over the contract from Lockheed Martin. The company will employ approximately 450 employees.

Several incentives encourage technology investment. The Research and Development Tax Credit provides a tax credit for up to 40 percent for Louisiana businesses that employ more than 50 Louisiana residents and that conduct R&D activities in Louisiana. Another recent incentive is the Digital Interactive Media Tax Credit program that offers a tax credit of 25 percent of qualified production expenditures for state-certified digital interactive productions in Louisiana and an additional 10 percent tax credit for payroll expenditures for Louisiana residents. The Quality Jobs Program provides a cash rebate of 5 to 6 percent of annual gross payroll for up 10 years for qualifying companies in bioscience, manufacturing, IT, environmental technology, food technology, advanced materials, or oil and gas and gas field services. The program also allows for state sales/use tax rebates on buildings, equipment and materials purchased that remain at the plant site.

From plastics to jet engines, Mississippi production of innovative technology is encouraged by a highly-skilled and abundant work force, along with a number of research centers dedicated to such niches as geospatial systems, aerospace and aviation, biotechnology, and polymers.

Aerospace companies are pioneering the latest developments in advanced composites in Mississippi. When GE Aviation announced the location of a jet engine composite component facility in Batesville, the company said it would involve the most sophisticated manufacturing techniques at any of its worldwide facilities. The facility shipped its first products in the spring of 2009. Alliant Techsystems (ATK) recently expanded its Iuka facility to produce composite aircraft structures in addition to the composite launch vehicles previously produced there.

"There is tremendous potential for growth and further innovation in the use of composite materials in aviation and aerospace applications," says Gray Swoope, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority. "Mississippi is pleased to have industry leaders like GE Aviation and ATK locating and expanding their facilities in our state. These companies have demonstrated their confidence in Mississippi's work force and the state's ability to compete in technology-driven industries."

Geospatial technology is another of Mississippi's fastest growing high-technology sectors, with a variety of industries relying in this sector including the defense/homeland security, engineering, energy and utilities, finance, education, timber and telecommunications sectors, as well as state and local governmental agencies. The Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions and the Geospatial Council of the Institutions of Higher Learning are among the organizations in the state working to build capacity across this sector. "Mississippi recognizes the value of geospatial technology with applications ranging from water management to global defense," says Swoope. "We are continuing to support the sector by further developing the state's research capabilities and strengthening our already skilled labor force."

In the energy sector, Mississippi Energy and Industrial Construction Consortium reports approximately 50 energy biomass projects in the state. The Mississippi Strategic Biomass Initiative is fostering value-added opportunities for Mississippi farmers related to food crops and animal by-products.

Animal health and plant science are the two most prolific growth areas in Missouri. The Show-Me State is home to the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor which stretches from Columbia, Missouri, to Manhattan, Kansas. Companies in the corridor represent 32 percent of sales in the $19 billion global animal health market, according to Bill Anderson, deputy director of the Missouri Technology Corporation. Plant science, another traditional strength, has been bolstered by facilities such as the world headquarters of Monsanto in St. Louis and institutions such as the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Missouri Botanical Gardens, Washington University, and the University of Missouri. Other fast-growing sectors include medical devices, nanotechnology, clinical imaging and medical diagnostics, information technology, advanced power and battery systems, and renewable energy, including algae.

In the very near future, according to Anderson, the Missouri Plant Science Center - a joint venture between the Missouri Technology Corporation, the University of Missouri, and the city of Mexico, Missouri - will break ground in that city. This center for applied research, technology commercialization, and pilot scale production will offer lab and office space, plus a pilot-scale manufacturing facility that will be available on a fee-for-use basis. It is expected to grow into a "hub of innovation and production for functional food, nutraceuticals and other plant sourced products," says Anderson.

Tech businesses in the state rely on incentives such as the Ag-Biotech Recruitment Fund administered by the Missouri Technology Corporation. The fund may be used for low-interest loans, convertible debt, direct equity investments and grants to eligible ag-biotech companies seeking to locate in Missouri. Another key proram is the state's Quality Jobs Program, which tech security firm Global Velocity in Clayton is utilizing for the expansion of a manufacturing facility that anticipates 265 new full-time, year-round jobs at the facility within five years.

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