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Campus-like facility will have high-speed data transmission capabilities

Tech park designed to attract high-tech businesses

ELLISVILLE — College graduates who previously had to move out of the state to get high-paying

technology jobs instead will have opportunities right at home at the businesses that will be located at the

new 500-acre Howard Technology Park.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held recently at the site on U.S. Hwy. 11 and Mississippi Hwy. 590

adjacent to Ellisville, located eight miles south of Laurel and 21 miles north of Hattiesburg. Andy Dial,

president of the Jones County Board of Supervisors, said that the state-of-the-art technology park will

be unique to Mississippi.

“This development will create a better category of jobs that can raise the income level of the county,”

Dial said. “This will be a place for young people who used to have to leave the state to get jobs. It was a

cooperative effort from the state government, the legislature, local governments and private industry. A

lot of credit goes to the Howards and also Dwight Evans of Mississippi Power Company.”

Howard Computers, a subsidiary of Howard Industries, will be the anchor for the Howard Technology

Park. Billy Howard, CEO of Howard Industries, said he expects about 5,000 people will be employed

by Howard Computers at the park in the next five to 10 years. Officials hope another 3,000 to 5,000

jobs will be created by other industries locating at the park that could include suppliers for Howard

Industries and for the new Nissan plant in Madison County.

“I believe the Howard Technology Park will be able to help all of the industries, not just in this area, but

throughout the state,” Howard said. “Even the Nissan factory will need the services of a lot of people

in the park. We’re looking to have a high-tech corridor from Ellisville to the Stennis Space Center, and

are working with people from Stennis right now in that area.”

Howard said there are 32 high-tech startup businesses at an incubator at Stennis. Howard Industries

already has a partnership with one of the businesses, and expects to develop partnerships with additional

Stennis businesses. He believes once high-tech businesses at Stennis reach a certain size, they might

consider the advantages of locating at the Howard Technology Park.

One of the biggest advantages will be training offered through Jones County Junior College, which is

building a $6-million training facility at the park. Currently bids are going out for infrastructure such as

roads, water and sewage at the park. Early next year bids are expected to be let for the Jones County

Junior College Advanced Technology Center. Completion of that structure is expected to take nine

months.

Construction of the Howard Computers facility will begin once the training facility is complete, and is

also expected to take nine months to construct.

Howard said that the business plan for Howard Computers is going according to schedule with sales

representatives calling on customers across the country.

“Computers are a $150-billion market, so the demand is out there,” Howard said. “We don’t have to

create the demand. We just have to persuade people to buy Howard Computers rather than someone

else’s computer.”

Mitch Stennett, president of the Economic Development Association of Jones County, said a unique

feature of the park will be its attractive, campus-like look.

“It will be very attractive,” Stennett said. “A good deal of money has been budgeted for landscaping,

and there will be curbs, gutters, sidewalks and green spaces. The outside lights and street signage will be

aesthetically pleasing. There will be no overhead utilities, and the park has strong protective covenants

that will protect nature.”

Stennett said the attractive character of the park is needed to compete with the nicer technology parks

located elsewhere in the U.S. The closest technology park similar to Howard Technology Park is in

Starkville, which has a technology park in conjunction with the university. Stennett said they borrowed

some ideas from the technology park in Starkville including their covenants, which were customized for

the Howard Technology Park.

Another factor that will make the park unique is that it will have high-speed data transmission

capabilities. Developers also hope the park’s location on a major highway will be an advantage.

Plans for Howard Technology Park were already underway prior to the announcement of the Nissan

plant. Stennett said that announcement is serendipitous, and could be advantageous regarding the

potential for attracting spin-off businesses for the Nissan plant. Stennett said the businesses could

include those involved in research and design.

“We will have the first technology-oriented sites available for high-tech suppliers to Nissan,” Stennett

said.

And as Howard Computers grows, it is hoped the spin-off businesses for that industry will also locate

at the park.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

About Becky Gillette

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