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Mississippi: An In-Depth Look at the Southern States

The Southern states are thriving, thanks to entrepreneurs with innovative high-tech ideas, strong public and private investment, and enthusiastic support from state and local governments.

Southern Tech Sites 2007
The Mississippi Development Authority has partnered with the Mississippi Technology Alliance to actively promote six industry clusters for development: communications and information technology, remote sensing/geomatics, forest products, marine sciences, plastics and polymers, and automotive. Besides corresponding to the state's already existing strengths, each cluster has the potential for co-funding from federal, industry, and other resources, and encompasses a range of research initiatives and industry applications.

Universities guide firms towards research capabilities and technology mavens. The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems at Mississippi State University provides engineering research, development, and technology transfer focused on complex technical problems, such as those associated with human mobility. The center is expecting a shift to "more of a venture capital mindset," according its annual report, using its core funding for entrepreneurial pursuits encompassing topics such as human and systems engineering, alternative power systems, and materials processing.

In high-tech manufacturing, the Mississippi PolymerInstitute at University of Southern Mississippi boosts the polymer-related industries through sciences, computer applications, product design, and the manufacturing of polymer materials. For the electronics minded, the Mississippi E-Center at Jackson State University focuses on teaching, research, and community outreach.

Located at the Golden Triangle Campus of East Mississippi Community College near Columbus, the 27,000-square-foot Center for Manufacturing Technology Excellence boasts 15- and 18-station networked computer labs, a 70-seat tiered auditorium with LAN connections, two classrooms, and a 4,500-square-foot commons area suitable for trade shows, luncheons, conferences, and technical classes.

While manufacturing gains momentum from entities such as the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Mississippi (part of Mississippi Technology Alliance) and Mississippi Enterprise for Technology, the state's lean-technology experts strive to improve manufacturing techniques. The Lean Production Certificate Program at Mississippi State and Lean Enterprise Center at University of Southern Mississippi focus on many industry segments, including shipbuilding, furniture, automotive, processing, and healthcare.

Besides offering knowledge-based assistance, financial incentives from the Momentum Mississippi Initiative encourage manufacturers to update. A Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit and state income tax credit of up to 5 percent of the new investment is available, as well as the Existing Industry Productivity Loan Program geared towards equipment purchases that improve productivity and competitiveness. Since adding equipment can reduce employment, the program requires that a company not reduce jobs by more than 20 percent when adding the new equipment. Also protecting employment, the Mississippi Job Protection Act provides $12 million in loans and grants for "at-risk" industries to retain jobs in danger of being moved outside of the United States.

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