Archive for the ‘Mississippi State University’ Category

College board approves agreement for MSU mixed-use development

August 19th, 2013 No comments

The College Board last week approved a land-use agreement between the developer of the Mill at MSU and Mississippi State University.

The agreement, which clears the way for the mixed-use development’s parking garage, effectively ends the transactions on the city of Starkville’s side. City officials will use an $8 million Community Development Block Grant to pay for the 450-space garage. The city and Mississippi State will split any profits the facility  produces. The 1.67 acres on which the garage will be built will be leased to the city for 10 years. At the end of the lease, the city will assume ownership of the property.

The Mill at MSU will feature conference space in MSU’s Cooley Building, office space and a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

Mill developer Mark Castleberry told Columbus newspaper the Commercial Dispatch he hopes to break ground on the project this year.  That’s the same timetable Castleberry used in an interview with the Mississippi Business Journal earlier this year.

Castleberry said the project’s construction schedule should clear up after the College  Board’s Oct. 15 meeting, when that body could approve additional land agreements.

Yokohama opens office in MSU’s Cochran Research Park

August 14th, 2013 No comments

Yokohama Tire Corp. has opened an office in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park on the campus of Mississippi State.

The tire company is building a manufacturing facility in West Point.

The office in Starkville will serve as the company’s operational headquarters while its West Point facility is under construction. It will house several divisions, including general management, human resources, information management and business and strategic planning.

“We are very pleased to welcome members of the Yokohama Tire team to the Thad Cochran Research Park and Industry Partners Building, and to develop a new pipeline of communication between us,” Marc McGee, director of the MSU Research and Technology Corporation, said in a school press release. The RTC manages the technology park.

The West Point facility is expected to have a total investment of $300 million initially and employ approximately 500 people. Additional phases are expected to create up to 2,000 jobs and represent a total investment of  $1.2 billion over the next decade. Production is scheduled to start in fall 2015.

The state provided $70 million to help Yokohama purchase the property and upgrade infrastructure.

Grant to fund financial literacy program at MSU

July 10th, 2013 No comments

A $40,000 grant from the Council of Graduate Schools will help Mississippi State University develop a financial education program for undergraduate and graduate students.

The grant is part of CGS’ Enhancing Financial Education Project, and is co-sponsored by financial services provider TIAA-CREF. The program will be designed to educate students about how to manage their personal financing and make good decisions related to saving, spending and borrowing money.

It will include face-to-face workshops, online training, traditional courses, career counseling, communication networks and social media.

Karen Coats, MSU associate dean of the Graduate School and co-principal investigator for the project, said student loan debt exceeded $1 trillion nationwide last year.

“As students amass debt at the undergraduate level, many of our best and brightest are unable to continue their education in graduate or professional school, preventing them from achieving mastery of their discipline and limiting their ability to reach their full potential,” Coats said in a school press release. “Mississippi State is committed to the well-being of our students and recognizes the need to help students make sound and informed financial decisions.”

Mississippi State’s Office of the Graduate School, in partnership with faculty and staff experts in financial literacy, student financial aid, information systems and technology, career counseling, and other student services, will use the funding to establish a comprehensive financial literacy program for MSU students.

“It is our hope that this program will promote financially informed students who will leave our institution with a brighter future,” Coats said.

CGS President Debra W. Stewart said that the project addresses an area of leading concern for graduate deans, according to an annual survey of CGS members.

“In collaboration with 14 other awardees and 19 affiliate partners, Mississippi State University is stepping up to help students prepare for the financial challenges of college life and beyond,” Stewart said.

At the Capitol, state Treasurer Lynn Fitch supported legislation this last session that would have mandated financial literacy courses for Mississippi high school students. The legislation failed, but Fitch has said she will push it again in 2014.

MSU grants oil extraction license to Jackson company

June 28th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi State has granted a commercialization license to a Jackson-based company for a technology developed and owned by the university.

The technology extracts oil from microorganisms.

Bio Energy Spectrum Solutions, LLC, received the exclusive right to commercialize MSU’s patented technology involving extracting biocrude from oleaginous microorganisms, which are found in wastewater treatment facilities. The microorganisms accumulate oil similar to vegetable oil or animal fat.

The company plans to build the world’s first commercially viable biocrude plant that uses industrial and municipal wastewaters.

Darryl Breland, president of Spectrum Solutions, said biocrude is the world’s latest and most promising alternative energy source because it is more cost effective than any other biofuel.

The company is co-owned by Rafael Hernandez and Todd French, who both were Mississippi State chemical engineering faculty members and co-inventors of the technology. French remains at MSU as an associate professor, while Hernandez now is head of the chemical engineering department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Andro Mondala, an MSU senior research associate who previously completed his doctoral degree at MSU and helped develop the technology as part of his dissertation, also is a co-owner.

The project orlginated under the Mississippi University Research Authority (MURA) Act. The 1992 legislation was designed to spur economic development by linking university researchers with private sector partners to commercialize inventions, innovations and other intellectual property.

The Mississippi State University Research and Technology Corporation will maintain a 5 percent equity interest in the company, per the licensing agreement.

“Unlike other manufacturers of biofuels, biocrude is not made from an expensive food-based feedstock such as soy oil, corn oil or yellow grease, but is made from secondary sewage sludge, which many cities and industries would be willing to pay our company to take from them,” Breland said in a school press release.

Spectrum Solutions is in the early stages of evaluating the feasibility of implementing the biocrude production technology with several U.S. municipalities and major industries, and has started discussions with potential sub-licensees in various countries around the world.

“The process is scalable and environmentally friendly, which is a great combination. MSU and the Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer are pleased to partner with Spectrum in commercializing this technology,” said Gerald Nelson, director of MSU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.

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Ole Miss, MSU to hold minority vendor job fair as part of IHL outreach program

June 11th, 2013 2 comments

Ole Miss and Mississippi State will hold a minority vendor fair June 18 in Oxford.

Minority Business Expo: Making The University Connection begins at 1 p.m. in the Jackson Avenue Center Multipurpose Room near the Ole Miss campus. Online registration is available through  and early registration is encouraged.

The event is the part of the IHL’s push to increase the number of minority-owned businesses that land the agency’s contracts.

Other institutions expects participating in the initiative include Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

IHL has contracted with, a Web-based platform that connects vendors to buyers through its quote feature. Minority companies post information about their business and the goods and services they provide. Universities send and receive quotes, proposals and subcontracting opportunities through the online system. This benefits minority businesses with awareness of opportunities and enables them to respond using the website’s easy-to-use method.

While any business can be listed on the site, minority businesses are recruited for inclusion in the featured listing section, which provides access to the quote, RFP, subcontracting opportunity solicitations.

Procurement officers at each of Mississippi’s public universities have been trained how to post opportunities to the site and retrieve quotes and information from the vendors.

“MSU is constantly seeking out new suppliers so we can expand the number of companies participating in the public procurement process,” said Don Buffum, MSU director of procurement and contracts. “We do this by urging departments to seek additional quotes or to try new vendors, actively seeking out new vendors at trade shows, conducting ‘Doing Business With MSU’ seminars, and by maintaining an open-door policy to meet with new vendors.

“Co-hosting the minority vendor fair with Ole Miss on June 18 provides us a great opportunity to implement all those strategies in a single venue,” Buffum continued. “By locating small and minority vendors, we are able to provide our departments with more potential sources while also making a valuable contribution to the economy.”

MSU students win start-up business competition

June 4th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi State students have again won the Mississippi New Venture Challenge Competition.

John L. Gazzini, of Birmingham, and Olive Branch’s Read T. Sprabery took first place, with Nimbus Mobile, an app design business. Nimbus is close to launching FeatherServe, which allows pool service companies to more easily and efficiently manage their operations.

Gazzine and Sprabery both graduated from MSU in May with computer engineering degrees.

Second-place went to Sensei Mobile, LLC, founded by Matthew M. Hoelter of Collierville, Tenn., another MSU spring computer engineering graduate. He is launching a service called Chat Katana that provides an anonymous one-on-one messaging service through a native phone application.

The annual competition is sponsored by Innovate Mississippi, a Ridgeland-based nonprofit organization that promotes statewide innovation and technology-based economic development.

“It’s gratifying to see our students continue a tradition of excellence,” said Abby Thompson, entrepreneurship program coordinator in MSU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer, in a school press release.

For the past three years, Mississippi State students have won eight out of nine places in the competition Overall, MSU had 11 teams compete in this year’s New Venture Challenge.

“We have taken purposeful steps to make innovation and entrepreneurship priorities. We have been building that ecosystem steadily with students, faculty and staff,” said Gerald Nelson, director, OETT.

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MSU professor develops national land use index

May 22nd, 2013 No comments

A Mississippi State professor of sociology is leading an online project that will serve as one-stop shopping for those searching for land development options across the U.S.

The Land Developability Index is now online at It provides researchers, elected officials and developers an index that will help them identify land available for conversion and/or development. It allows anyone concerned about land use to determine what percentage could be developed at county and state levels. The research that led to the website was done by MSU’s Social Science Research Center and the College of Arts and Sciences’ department of sociology.

Guangqing Chi, the MSU professor spearheading the project, said it was initially designed for researchers, but could benefit transportations planners, community developers and forestry and natural resource officials.

“The unique thing about this index is that it is just one number representing the overall characteristics and status of land use and development,” Chi said in a school news release. “For people who are interested in land use and development, they can just go online and use it. There are other projects that share a similar methodology, but they are for different purposes.”

Chi and his team, which includes professors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota and other MSU professors, generated the land maps using spatial overlay methods to identify undeveloped lands. Examples include wetlands, steep slopes, surface water, built-up lands and Native American reservations to go with state- or federal-owned land. The index is compatible with Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software.

“It takes lots of effort to get all those components together in one data set, one platform,” Chi said. “Users may skip these intermediate steps and simply use the final product of the Land Developability Index.”

The index has been in the works for a decade. During his doctoral studies, Chi developed a similar index for Wisconsin to help that state improve its population forecasting.

Chi’s next step is to refine his latest index into categories separated by metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, municipalities, census tracts, block groups and ZIP codes. His overall goal is to produce an index that covers the planet. That will require additional funding from external sources, Chi said.

MSSC Justice Randolph blasts DOJ in Manning execution dissent (Updated)

May 7th, 2013 2 comments

The Mississippi Supreme Court stayed the execution of Willie Jerome Manning, who was scheduled to die Tuesday night at 6 at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

Manning was convicted in 1994 of killing two Mississippi State students in front of the campus’ Sigma Chi fraternity house.

Justices voted 8-1 to issue the stay. Justice Michael Randolph, of Hattiesburg, dissented.

Randolph was critical of the court’s decision, writing that Manning had failed to comply with the statutory requirements attached to his claim that DNA testing on a hair found in one of the victim’s cars could possibly exonerate him.  Randolph took particular issue with letters submitted with the hair analysis from the U.S. Department of Justice that were unsigned.

“The letters challenge not only former FBI experts in hair, but also ballistics. Our established law and justice require more,” Randolph wrote in his opinion.

Randolph also pointed out what he felt were discrepancies in one of the DOJ letters, which said mitochondrial DNA testing became routine in 2000. Randolph cited an article published by the DOJ in 1999 that said the testing became routine in 1992, and would have been available for Manning’s 1994 trial, if he had asked that it be done.

The DOJ’s controversial “Fast and Furious” gun-running program also made an appearance in Randolph’s dissent. The program was initiated in 2009 to track Mexican drug cartel leadership, but the DOJ lost track of almost 2,000 weapons, one of which was used to kill a border agent in 2010. Congressional GOP leaders have complained since that pinpointing exactly who is responsible for the botched operation has been difficult due to DOJ stonewalling.

Randolph compares that to the FBI’s recently asking anti-death penalty group the Innocence Project to assist with the Manning hair analysis process due to his execution date being close.

“Although the connectivity and expediency by which this review was accomplished is mind boggling, I should not be surprised, given that the families of victims of the clandestine ‘Fast and Furious’ gun running operation can’t get the Department of Justice to identify the decision makers (whose actions resulted in the death of a border agent and many others) after years of inquiry, and that this is the same Department of Justice that grants and enforces Miranda warnings to foreign enemy combatants,” Randolph wrote.

The entire order granting the stay and Randolph’s dissent can be read here.

UPDATE: Attorney General Jim Hood has issued a statement. Here it is, verbatim:

I am sorry that the victims’ families will have to continue to live this 20 plus year nightmare.  Out of an abundance of caution, our Court stayed the sentence until it had time to review this flurry of last minute filings.  Yesterday evening our office filed a report with the Court, which I obtained from the district attorney’s office around 6:00 yesterday afternoon.  The  report states that there was no serological evidence from the victims’ fingernail scrapings or semen on the vaginal swabs from the rape test kit for a DNA test to identify. 

After having an opportunity to consider this new evidence, the senior attorneys in this office believe our Court will dissolve the stay and the sentence will be carried out.  If, however, our Court orders that these items be retested, then we will carry out that order. 

 I am in conversations with the DOJ and FBI to determine how these last minute letters came about.  After conversing with expert witnesses at our Crime Lab, it is clear that FBI experts and experts in all states used more conclusive language in their testimony up until around the time the 2009 National Academy of Science report was issued on forensics.  Since then the policy of many experts has been to qualify their testimony by using the magic words “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty”.  The FBI agents in this case were simply following the standards used in their fields at the time. 

The letters sent from the forensic taskforce chairman at DOJ, merely state that the science was not that exact in 1993, not that these agents were not following the standard followed by all of their colleagues at the time, both state and federal, in testifying to the degree of certainty.

Manufacturing summit set for Mississippi State

March 15th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi manufacturing leaders will assemble next week at Mississippi State to assess the state’s manufacturing sector and kick around ways to grow it.

The third annual Manufacturing Summit is hosted by MSU’s Franklin Furniture Institute and the American Home Furnishings Alliance. It starts at 8:30 the morning of March 27 and runs through 4:30 that afternoon.

On the agenda will be ways to expand Mississippi manufacturing, which currently accounts for 12 percent of non-farm employment, according to state figures. MSU president Mark Keenum will open the event. Gov. Phil Bryant will deliver the keynote address.

The summit will include two panel discussions, one on possible collaborations between manufacturers and federal agencies meant to accelerate industry growth. The other will center on the implications of the Affordable Care Act.

Speakers include representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Appalachian Regional Commission, Delta Regional Authority, MSU faculty experts and leaders of the state’s manufacturing and furniture industries. The program will also touch on global manufacturing competitiveness, consumer buying attitudes and behavior, skilled labor shortages and industry regulations.

Registration is $99 for members of the American Home Furnishings Association and $139 for non-members.  Registration is available online at

Sponsors of the event include CertiPUR-US, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center and the MSU Extension Service.

Initial work on Tanglefoot Trail entering last stages

November 26th, 2012 No comments

Work on the 44-mile Tanglefoot Trail has reached Chickasaw County, where it will end in downtown Houston.

The recreational trail, which runs from New Albany to Houston, is the old Gulf Mobile and Ohio railroad. It’s modeled after South Mississippi’s Longleaf Trace, and is expected to have a similar economic impact, estimated at $5 million annually, and mainly driven by users, estimated at 100,000 per year.

The prospects of development around the trail have officials in Union, Pontotoc and Chickasaw counties excited. To go about that as smartly as possible, Mississippi State University’s Carl Small Town Center is running test scenarios related to different methods of growing the adjacent areas. Researchers are using first-of-its-kind software to determine best-case scenarios. Details can be found in this Mississippi Business Journal story from September.

The Chickasaw Journal, one of the MBJ’s sister publications, has the details on the trail entering its final stages of preliminary construction here. Its opening is scheduled for late spring or early summer 2013.