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Comprehensive tool will help facilitate economic development

Mississippi Innovation Index to be unveiled Jan. 30

In two days, decision-makers, economic developers and state leaders will be armed with a comprehensive tool: the first-ever Mississippi Innovation Index: A Tool to Measure Monitor and Promote Progress.

On Jan. 30, the Mississippi Technology Alliance will unveil the index, which measures the state’s science and technology activity and development across the board, at a 1:30 p.m. press conference at the Capitol Rotunda in downtown Jackson.

“The Mississippi Innovation Index targets technology-based economic development and will provide our state with a comprehensive and accurate view of where Mississippi currently stands in relationship to other states,” said Dr. Angeline “Angie” Dvorak, president and CEO of MTA. “The index will allow Mississippi to establish a consistent and reliable source of data and may help clarify national rankings.”

Dvorak said the index would serve as a roadmap.

“As decisions have to be made while resources are tightening, this data will help us see where we’re showing progress and where we need to exert more energy,” she said.

Before MTA initiated the index, there was no coordinated effort to collect results-oriented data from various science and technology-related programs and use that data for decision-making in Mississippi, Dvorak said.

“For Mississippi to be on the national technology map, we must work toward implementing a blueprint that accents our strengths and addresses our shortcomings,” Dvorak said. “This index has the possibility of revolutionizing technology-based economic development in our state.”

In compiling the index, MTA identified two major strategies and 24 performance indicators focusing on a broad goal of wealth creation for Mississippi. The findings will help increase the state’s research capacity and high tech business development, Dvorak said.

“We’ve done a lot of work reconciling data sources,” she said. “That’s been of immediate benefit to make sure we’re comparing apples to apples. We have many different data sources that are gathered and kept in many different ways and for many different periods of time. The index will provide more consistency for these datasets — and that will be a big help.”

Only baseline data is reported in this year’s index — to give Mississippi a starting point, Dvorak said.

“We’re not focusing on comparative data,” she said. “We give some Southeast averages and Mississippi-Arkansas averages to illustrate points, but the focus is on our own baseline data. We’ll be working through our board of directors and others to identify some goals that will link back to some of these performance indicators that could have statewide focus.”

Subsequent indices will provide more comparative data, Dvorak said.

“Data can be very misleading if you look at a situation that is too isolated,” she said. “We can’t draw any conclusions just by this one dataset, but we will identify periods of time, maybe three-, five- or 10-year periods, to track data and provide a comparative analysis. It will become a major component of future innovation indices that we’ll publish every year, hopefully in January.”

Before determining the best practices for Mississippi, Dvorak studied how other states and various groups, such as the Southern Technology Council and the Southern Growth Policy Board, were capturing similar information. About 32 states publish some type of report card on a regular basis and 25 states publish a comprehensive index, Dvorak said.

“We looked at all the methods used for those and chose the best parts and developed some ourselves like the eight-point lead indicators, which is unique,” she said. “We developed a reasonably complex matrix based on a model in Oregon of how we’re going to track those indicators. We were very conscientious in wanting Mississippians to benefit from this index and not just members of the scientific and statistics community. It should have a broad readership.”

The index will be compiled annually, using data from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Mississippi Development Authority, Mississippi Employment Securities Commission, Mississippi Tax Commission and national databases.

“The mission of the Mississippi Technology Alliance is to champion science-and technology-based economic development for the state of Mississippi,” Dvorak said. “Our vision is for Mississippi to have strong, fully integrated technology, education and industrial sectors so that Mississippians can enjoy higher-paying jobs and a more diverse, stable and competitive economy. The index is only one step.”

Before Dvorak moved to Mississippi in 2000 to head Mississippi Technology, Inc. (MTI), later renamed MTA, she served as president of Ashland Community College in Kentucky, where she was a vital member of a six-person commission that developed the state’s first “smart” park in eastern Kentucky. Prior to Ashland Community College, Dvorak was involved in advanced computer and telecommunications technologies, first as a developer and later as a technology facilitator and manager in Alabama, Florida, Michigan and Tennessee.

For more information on the Mississippi Technology Alliance, a non-profit organization, visit www.technologyalliance.ms.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com</a.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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