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MSU president taps Columbus mayor to enhance economic development efforts.

Singing in harmony coming for the Golden Triangle

Mega projects related to the aerospace industry have been a significant boost to the economy of the Golden Triangle. And now the retired four-star U.S. Air Force general who recently took over as president of Mississippi State University (MSU), Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, is bringing on former Columbus Mayor Jeffrey Rupp to build upon the successes.

Rupp resigned as mayor recently to become director of community and government affairs at MSU. He was 13 months into his second term. A special election to fill his post will be held this fall.

Rupp said it was a difficult decision to leave the mayoral post because it wasn’t just a job, but a relationship with his community. And although he will earn $100,000 in the MSU job compared to $68,000 as mayor, he said his decision had less to do with money than the opportunity to work with Gen. Foglesong at MSU at such an exciting time.

“If you look at the Golden Triangle, particularly at what is happening at the industrial park with Eurocopter and Aurora, both have specific ties to Mississippi State,” Rupp said. “When folks from Eurocopter started looking for a place in Mississippi to call home, the first meeting we had with them they mentioned the Raspet flight lab at Mississippi State specifically as something that really interested them. Aurora Flight Sciences also was involved with Mississippi State. In fact, that is there they set up shop until their groundbreaking a few weeks ago.”

Large amounts of development related to the aerospace industry are underway. For example, Eurocopter has won a $3-billion contract to build up to 352 helicopters for the U.S. Army, a project expected to increase employment at Eurocopter in Columbus by 200. Now with a retired four-star Air Force general at the helm of MSU, Rupp said there couldn’t be a better time to push forward to enhance an aviation cluster.

“What the president wants to do is leverage all that we have going on,” Rupp said. “I know he feels a large land grant university needs to be an economic development engine for the people who support it. I really truly believe he has leadership ability to transform the university into one of the greatest state universities in the country.”

Foglesong and Rupp have been friends since Foglesong was commander of Columbus Air Force Base.

“Jeffrey has skill sets that fit my requirement for assistance to make us more efficient and effective in how we deal with economic development in our communities, and some of the special challenges now to work on a recruiting campaign for students,” Foglesong said. “We are heavily engaged now in a recruiting campaign across the state, and Jeffrey is well known across the state, not just in Columbus. He is a great public speaker.”

Foglesong said his dilemma is that he is often pulled in two or three directions at same time. “Jeffrey can help me by attending important meetings, providing a face to the public that is well known and respected,” he said.

Another real winner for music fans is that Foglesong has tapped Rupp, a guitarist who put out a CD a few years ago and has played with Percy Sledge and the Platters, to be in a band that Foglesong has started at MSU called Bark.

“I have been told I will be in his band called Bark,” Rupp said. “I’m a weekend warrior. I play music quite a bit out on the weekends.”

Foglesong said this isn’t their “first rodeo together.” They have previously played music together. Foglesong started several bands while in the Air Force and found that it was a real morale booster.

“It allowed me to put a human face in front of our airman,” Foglesong said. “It was unintentional, but it turned out to be a real morale builder. I did it just because I like music.”

The band will play a mixture of country and old time rock and roll. Members will be a mix of students, faculty and alumni. Foglesong, who is a singer, said he enjoys the opportunity to get out with students and faculty.

“I’m going to sing with them,” Foglesong said. “We have done some practicing. We hope to open up next month with our first gig. I’m pretty excited about it. We are all having fun. We are all going to keep our day jobs, by the way.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.


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