From left, Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman, Greater Starkville Development Partnership President and CEO Jon Maynard and Oktibbeha County District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard talk Wednesday during a community roundtable at MSU. Photo by: Russ Houston/MSU University Relations
July 28, 2011 1:20:00 PM
Growth, in all aspects of industry around Starkville and Oktibbeha County, was the main topic at the community roundtable Wednesday at Mississippi State University.
MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum gave the most significant update to the 30 city and county officials and community business leaders during the group''s monthly meeting hosted by the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.
Keenum, who has led MSU for the past two-and-a-half years, has helped engineer an enrollment increase of 3,000 students. MSU, the state''s largest university based on enrollment, will have more than 20,000 students when the fall semester begins in August.
The campus infrastructure is growing, too; South Hall was recently completed, and a pair of new residence halls that will provide 800 more beds on campus, are under construction and will be completed by fall 2013.
The growth also presents challenges for MSU, as it''s almost at capacity in classroom space, Keenum said.
"It''s kind of hard to believe one of the largest campuses is running out of room," Keenum said, "but we''re fully utilizing what we have. This campus has continued to evolve."
Keenum also noted the average GPA for entering freshmen is steadily increasing, and the average ACT score for entering freshmen is the highest of any university in the state at 23.7.
MSU employees account for 45 percent of the local workforce. It''s continued growth is good news for Starkville''s local economy, especially retail business and sales tax revenue for the city.
But as Keenum noted from MSU football coach Dan Mullen''s recent endorsement of the city of Starkville at the Southeastern Conference Media Days, the development of the community and growth of the university is reciprocal.
"If it''s good for MSU, it''s good for Oktibbeha County and Starkville," Keenum said. "Likewise, if it''s good for Starkville, it''s good for MSU."
MSU''s relationship with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership has resulted in a climb in research-based expansion.
For example, semiconductor industry supplier II-VII''s decision in March to expand its operation at the Thad Cochran Research Park will bring at least 100 additional jobs to Starkville, maybe more, over the next five years, GSDP President and Chief Executive Officer Jon Maynard said.
A 10,000-square-foot space and incubator building are being constructed in preparation for II-IV''s expansion, as well as another 20,000 square-foot building to house silicone crystal growth stations.
Maynard noted the industrial expansion in Lowndes County differs from Oktibbeha County because the large-scale factories require more power, which Starkville''s current infrastructure can''t provide.
"We''re actually going after more high-tech growth industries that require lab coats," Maynard said. "We''re going after projects right now that fit with the research component of the university."
The city''s role in attracting tech jobs and business comes in the form of tax incentives, power and utilities.
Recently, furniture manufacturer Flexsteel, which is Starkville''s sixth-largest employer with 370 workers, worked with the city and GSDP to consolidate its utilities into one meter, which will provide significant immediate and long-term energy savings, Maynard said.
"When we go out to recruit new businesses, the partnerships we''ve built through this community has been valuable," Maynard said.
Also during the meeting, Oktibbeha County District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard announced work will begin in the next two weeks to upgrade the county courthouse, the narcotics building, county extension building, justice court building, drug court building and health department building with energy efficient fixtures and HVAC systems. The work is financed through a $175,000 energy grant from the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District.
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