As the Communication Information Technology Organization of Mississippi (CIT.ms) enters its fourth year, volunteer leaders who have helped carve out a very aggressive vision for transforming the state into a high-tech cluster continue to strengthen the 350-member organization to meet the needs of its members.
“One of our goals last year was to dramatically increase our reach outside of Jackson,” said Heath Hall, communications director for the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA). “We wanted technology companies throughout Mississippi to know that we are here to serve them.”
There was standing-room-only when CIT.ms hosted a meeting in Hattiesburg recently, and a long line of technology leaders registered to receive information on CIT.ms activities, said Hall.
“We will continue to have meetings outside of Jackson during 2004,” he said. “We also expanded our board to make sure that every region of the state has representation. For example, the MDA (Mississippi Development Authority) deputy director, Gray Swoope, is on our board. This is a very active group of volunteers who work every single day to expand our mission and reach. If it was not for the volunteer board, CIT.ms would not have the impact that it has.”
CIT.ms originated through the Mississippi Economic Council, and was shifted to the MTA umbrella when Dr. Angie Dvorak was hired to run the program and the agency. Dvorak left MTA in 2002 when the University of Southern Mississippi hired her as vice president for research and economic development. Andy Taggart replaced Dvorak, and MTA has continued to nurture the program.
“CIT.ms was really borne out of the Mississippi Technology Alliance, which was built on the concept of industry clusters,” said Kiley Ham, manager of regulatory affairs for Bellsouth Telecommunications in Mississippi. “The state has many small technology companies, startups coming out of incubator systems, and very innovative people.”
The technology organization recently began offering its members an opportunity to purchase health insurance through their membership.
“As we have traveled Mississippi, one of the top things that our members have requested is health insurance,” he said. “This is a tremendous benefit to smaller companies who were previously not able to obtain reasonable rates. We operate our program through AmFed and they search several companies to get the best rate for a specific member. Members can now submit an application for rates by visiting www.cit.ms.”
Brenda Thornton, vice chair of CIT.ms and vice president and CIO of Jackson-based AmFed Companies, said CIT.ms is always working to provide its members with tangible benefits that can improve their bottom line.
“The most exciting project we have on the board this year is the enhancement of our web portal that will allow member companies to receive notification of RFPs via the Internet,” she said. “We are working to make it easy for any company to locate a resource when they have an IT need.”
As MTA leaders travel the state in search of the newest and greatest technology achievements by Mississippians, “we get a daily dose of ‘wow’,” said Hall.
“The CIT.ms provides us with a dose of ‘wow’ every five minutes,” he said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.