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Mississippi World Trade Center opens

JACKSON — In April 2001, members of the World Trade Center Association granted Mississippi’s request for a charter.

On May 1, 2002, Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Herb Ouida, executive vice president of the World Trade Center Association of New York, officially announced the opening of the Mississippi World Trade Center (MSWTC).

Ordinarily, it wouldn’t have taken a year to go from obtaining a charter to opening a center, but 2001 was no ordinary year for the World Trade Center Association. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center’s headquarters in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, ultimately delayed the opening of Mississippi’s center, resulting in the MSWTC being the first World Trade Center to open since that infamous date.

“I was in the building on the day that the plane hit and I lost my son — he was on the 105th floor and I was on the 72nd floor,” Ouida told those gathered for the opening. “The terrorists tried to destroy the symbol of our association, but we are more committed today than ever to our goal. Mississippi building this World Trade Center is a shining example to all and a statement to the world: We are stronger than ever. We are more committed. We won, they lost. The terrorists hit the one in New York, but they missed America.”

Ouida said the continuing growth of free trade and international trade groups is proof of the failure of those — terrorist or otherwise — opposed to globalization. Those opposed to free trade, he said, are hurting themselves and those they claim to represent.

“Technology, transportation and communication are making the world a smaller place,” Ouida said. “We’re trying to establish world peace through international trade.”

Following his remarks, Ouida presented the formal charter for the center to Musgrove and directors of the MSWTC.

Musgrove, in mentioning his plans for an early May business development trip to Japan, said that the state has long realized the value of international trade to its economy.

The governor said the center’s mission will model the objectives of the World Trade Center Association: to encourage expansion through world trade; to promote international business relationships; to foster participation in world trade; to create and encourage mutual assistance and cooperation among members; and to promote and market the concept of the World Trade Center in Mississippi and the world.

The MSWTC is located in the Landmark Center in downtown Jackson in office space donated by BellSouth. The center will serve as a central site for the coordination of international programs and services in the state’s public and private sectors. The U.S. Department of Commerce will have a staff member in the MSWTC office and the Mississippi Development Authority will rotate members of its international development staff through the facility. The Mississippi Economic Development Council will also be located at the MSWTC.

“In addition, there are many other things that will be instigated by the WTC: our own conferences, workshops and educational services that may fill the gaps or enhance those things the state and others are already doing,” said Barbara Travis, MSWTC executive director. “For instance, at the end of this month we are having an educational seminar for the new Mississippi Auto Manufacturers Association.”

Perhaps most importantly, the center will help small businesses find new markets, said Liles Williams, president of the MSWTC’s board of directors.

“Many companies in our state are already involved in international trade, but we also know there are many more who would like to be involved in international trade but need the guidance and assistance to do so effectively,” Williams said. “That’s the call the WTC is attempting to answer.

“In a nutshell, the WTC will use partnerships, technology and networking to promote international trade for all the businesses in our state.”

Williams also represents the central portion of the state on the board. Other board members, strategically chosen to represent the various business and geographic sectors of Mississippi, are John McCullouch, president, BellSouth of Mississippi, and vice president of the MSWTC board; northern representative Kenneth Williams, president of Refreshments Inc. in Corinth and board secretary; southern representative Billy Howard, CEO of Howard Industries in Laurel, and board treasurer, and Bob Rohrlack, executive. director of the Mississippi Development Authority. The members of the board of directors of the MSWTC are also members of the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development Services.

The MSWTC is the result of a partnership between public and private groups, including the Mississippi Development Authority, the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development Services, the United States Department of Commerce International Trade Administration, the International Trade Clubs of Mississippi, the Mississippi District Export Council, BellSouth and educational institutions from across the state.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Mara Hartmann at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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