East Mississippi as a high-tech center
Aug. 1, 2001
The idea of East Mississippi becoming a high-tech center is not as far-fetched as one might think. Centrally located between automotive plants in Alabama and Canton, two interstate highways, excellent rail service, and an under-utilized airport with the longest runway in two states are all positive contributors.
Building on a theme already well known to many local businesses, efforts are under way to explore the connections between advanced technology and jobs. Given Mississippi's traditional dependence on fast-disappearing manufacturing and agricultural related jobs, this concept should be explored with a renewed sense of urgency.
A visit to Meridian by the president of the Mississippi Technology Alliance, Dr. Angeline Dvorak, brought the urgency into clear perspective:
Mississippi has lost 25,000 manufacturing jobs in the last 24 months. Many of these jobs were relatively low-wage, low-skill jobs that moved offshore as companies fight to compete in a global economy. The plain fact is that job losses disrupt families, strain growth projections and, ultimately, can destroy a community.
In a statewide tour, Dvorak is spreading the word that this trend need not continue. She believes areas such as East Mississippi, by adopting a strategic development plan, communicating and embracing technology, can help create a brighter future for its people. She realizes technology is a tool that will have different applications in different situations, but the important thing is to begin to think strategically.
Adopting a strategic plan for economic development would be a good first step, followed closely by forming a regional technology council. The term "high tech" has no meaning unless it is backed up with solid planning.
After that, as local companies become more accustomed to talking to each other, they can actually use new technologies to supplement and complement each other's growth. Now that would be real progress.