HATTIESBURG — The University of Southern Mississippi College of Business is part of a team the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) has assembled for its Statewide Port Needs and Marketing Study, which is being conducted over the next year to more fully leverage the economic development potential of the state’s 16 public ports.
The team is led by engineering firm Neel–Schaffer Inc., and in addition to Southern Miss, includes Cambridge Systematics Inc. and W.R. Coles & Associates. The university will be conducting economic development training as part of the study to ensure Mississippi port directors are able to implement the study recommendations.
The marketing needs assessment of the ports will help identify valuable components such as the port’s capacity, capabilities and goals. The data gathered in the study will be used in developing marketing packages specific to each individual port’s needs. Along with the assortment of new marketing tools, key port officials will receive marketing and business development training to enhance negotiations with current and potential customers.
“Mississippi has a unique transportation advantage in that it is surrounded by three navigable waterways,” said Dr. Bill Smith, chairman of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism. “These nearly 800 miles of commercially navigable waterways provide more economical and efficient access to national and international markets.”
Dr. Chad R. Miller, associate professor in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and assistant director of the Center for Logistics, Trade, and Transportation, along with professional practitioner, Robert Ingram of Common Sense Economic Development Inc. will handle the education component of the project. Kevin Buckley, a graduate student in the Southern Miss Masters of Economic Development program, will also be assisting.
In addition to major seaports in Gulfport and Pascagoula, the state has numerous ports on the Mississippi River and Tennessee-Tombigbee Inland Waterway that can efficiently handle tremendous bulk cargo tonnage.
“The state wants to take full advantage of the opportunities that water transportation provides as business firms seek the most efficient way to bring their goods to market,” Miller said. “Industries such as steel mills and wood pellet manufacturers seek sites near these ports, so it is important all involved parties understand economic development and have the knowledge and skills to successfully attract the kind of high-paying jobs associated with these industries.”