Joint effort to improve aerospace industry

March 25, 2010 10:53:00 AM

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- Improvements could be on the way to Mississippi State University''s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory and the surrounding infrastructure thanks to a joint effort between the city of Starkville, Oktibbeha County, MSU and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.  


The entities are joining together to request federal funding to repair and resurface Airport Road, where the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory and George Bryan Field are located, on the west side of town. The funds also would be used to build a new access road more than 200 yards from Highway 25 to a new western entrance to George Bryan Field. 


"Doing so will open up land for possible aerospace industry development, as well as improved services to industries in our area," Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum said of the proposed access road. 


The road projects are budgeted at $800,000. 


Local officials also plan to request federal funding for improvements to equipment at the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, they announced at a press conference at the facility, Wednesday. 


One equipment item of significant importance is the autoclave, which, at 10 feet wide and 55 feet long, requires an upgrade and certification to efficiently manufacture parts for both manned and unmanned aircraft.  


The improvements to the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, budgeted at $500,000, and surrounding infrastructure are the result of a community roundtable meeting last month between the city, county, MSU and GSDP. 


"This is an example of our city, our county, our business community and our university joining together to advance economic opportunities for Starkville, Oktibbeha County and Mississippi State University," Keenum said. 


Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman shared a similar sentiment. 


"Folks, don''t look now, but a sleeping giant is waking up," Wiseman said. "For years I have heard people say, and I have said from time to time myself, that this community could be one of the true jewels of the Southeast if we could ever get to the point where we have the city, the county and the university working together. We are on the cusp of doing just that and this project is just the tip of the iceberg. It addresses infrastructure needs, it addresses a major economic development component, not only of this city, but of this region and of this state." 


Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Marvell Howard was excited about the projects and the potential to attract high-paying jobs. 


"It''s just an exciting time here in Oktibbeha County," Howard said. "We have made a concerted effort to work together. For so long we''ve had these resources here, but it almost seemed like nobody else knew about them. But now we''re letting everybody know about them and I can tell you the outside is pleased at what they''re seeing." 


Amy Tuck, chairman of the GSDP board of directors and special assistant to Keenum, stressed the importance of improved infrastructure and equipment at the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. 


"Infrastructure is key to economic development and today we celebrate these community roundtable projects ... which will position us for new, exciting opportunities," Tuck said. 


Jon Maynard, president and CEO of the GSDP, also was pleased with the potential improvements in and around the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, with the planned expansion of Golden Triangle Regional Airport and plans to expand the current Lowndes County Industrial Park into the Golden Triangle Regional Global Industrial Aerospace Park. 


"We can physically grow this (aerospace industry) right outside our door," Maynard said. "We can have that growth right here in Starkville, Mississippi."