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MTA president optimistic about state’s world-class research

RIDGELAND — Now that Dr. Randall Goldsmith has had a few months to settle in as president and CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA), the Texas native is even more excited about what’s going on in the state technology wise.

“It’s a new day and I couldn’t be more pleased with my job here and the way things are going,” he said.
He took the helm of MTA last September after a stint at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio where he led numerous technology commercialization and capital formation efforts. That model for growing technology-based companies has been adopted by organizations throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Goldsmith earned an undergraduate degree from Hardin Simmons University and master’s and doctorate degrees in urban and regional planning from Texas A&M University. As a graduate student, he gained a reputation for his technology-based economic development expertise after developing a program to help Texas recover from the oil bust and real estate industry downturn.

The MTA leader paused before plunging into plans for 2007 to answer questions for Mississippi Business Journal readers.

Mississippi Business Journal: How are things going for you here?

Randall Goldsmith: Everything is going very well. My wife and I have been well received by everyone we’ve met in Mississippi from the Governor’s Office to the Legislature to research institutions to private investors.

MBJ: Have your impressions of the state changed since you arrived here?

RG: I’m much more surprised by the quality and quantity of research going on at the research institutions. I’ve visited with Ole Miss, Mississippi State, the University Medical School, Jackson State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. They are involved in a significant amount of world-class research.

MBJ: Does this research support the shift in economic development to a technology-based development?

RG: Yes, it does. We’re now in the third-generation of economic development. We shifted from chasing smokestack industry to technology based and now we’re moving from that toward innovation-based economic development.

MBJ: What is the state ideally suited for along those lines?

RG: It varies around the state. I answer that by looking at where the research is going on in the state. It takes world-class research in today’s world and we have that.

MBJ: What does the state offer to be competitive?

RG: It has that research along with the quality of entrepreneurship and the interest of local communities to invest. Those things show that Mississippi has all the ingredients to be successful.

It also shows what MTA needs to do. These months have been an orientation for me. The staff is very solid and supplied me with materials and plans to study before I came. Since I came, I’ve been meeting with people and preparing to roll out a very aggressive plan in 2007.

MBJ: Please tell us about that plan. When does it start?

RG: It kicks off this month. We’re calling it the Mississippi Innovation Network, and it’s for anyone who wants to be involved in moving the state’s technology-based economic development forward. There’s a role for everyone to play; people from all walks of life.

We’re beginning a Certified Innovation Community Program to recognize communities that have gone through a process on how to enhance its technology-based economic development. We have two community prototypes, Cleveland and Greenville. They approached us before I arrived about growing their technology economic development.

The idea is to mobilize leadership from a variety of sectors and get everyone on the same page with the same plan. It’s an ambitious plan but one that will have great rewards.

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MBJ: How does the plan work?

RG: We take leaders recruited by the community, people who are passionate about enhancing their community, and go through our training program. They will receive training in topics related to entrepreneurship, private investment, workforce development and technology infrastructure. We go to them and must have a minimum of six people in each community. We’re working with Delta State University and Southern Mississippi in designing the curriculum.
These leaders will develop a unique plan for their community. Then the idea is to move that plan into action. We will help facilitate the plan and monitor it as they go through it. Each community gets a sign with their designation.

MBJ: When will other communities in the state become involved?

RG: The Delta portion will take 90 days. We have other communities wanting to get in line and there’s a lot of interest. I’ve been giving presentations around the state. We expect to roll out the statewide plan in mid-summer of this year. Every community is different. We’re finding it to be an exciting model. We promote high-performance companies. It makes no difference what industrial sector it is as long as it’s high quality.

MBJ: Any other observations about the state in your time here?

RG: I was very optimistic before I came because I had read about the state and researched it. One of the most pleasant things I’ve found is the attitude of the people I’ve met. They’re all optimistic about the future and feel they’re on the threshold of something exciting. That lends itself to cooperation.

I believe people here will take advantage of the opportunities that are before us with coordination and a collaborative effort from all sectors in the state.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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