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Mississippi Technology Alliance Infusing S&T Mindset Via Tech Councils

February 21, 2003

Community buy-in to building a technology-based economy is vital for TBED success. Establishing a strong private sector commitment to science and technology can make a significant difference, particularly as elected officials are deciding what to cut or trim from the budget. TBED organizations use different approaches to get the buy-in. In states such as Massachusetts (see story in this Digest), the top-down direction from the Governor could provide the group critical access. Mississippi's grassroots approach to building tech councils, on the other hand, is designed to infuse a science and technology mindset throughout the state at the very local level — with a little financial and technical assistance from the state's lead TBED organization.

Since Fall 2001, the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA) has awarded more than $90,000 in grants to communities around the state to establish tech initiatives. MTA provides business and industry support for cluster development organizations to help foster technology expansion in the state. Communities can receive a $1,500 grant to start up a technology council or up to $3,000 if they partner with each other. Not all of the Alliance's investment has led solely to the creation of tech councils, but at least five councils have emerged in just a year-and-a-half and eight others seem to be in the works.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Technology Council (MGCTC), for example, was launched earlier this month at a membership luncheon that convened nearly 160 area business and economic leaders. Along with the Alliance, MGCTC is a joint project of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Alliance for Economic Development and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Economic Development Council. One feature of the newly created tech council, which encompasses six counties, is using its website to enable participant companies to list job openings. A 70-member board and 13-member steering committee guide MGCTC.

The Fall 2002 issue of Pointe Innovation magazine – a privately funded publication published by MTA and distributed throughout the Mississippi technology community – highlighted additional communities that have benefited from MTA's investment, including the Mid-South region, Natchez, Oxford and Starkville. The "Technology @ Home in Mississippi Tour," which has visited 30 communities since the summer of 2001, has been a forum for these grant recipients to entertain technology discussion with state legislators and others. The MTA website also mentions technology councils are in the planning stages for Brookhaven, Canton, Cleveland, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Koscuisko, Laurel and McComb.

For more information on MTA and technology council grant recipients, visit: http://www.technologyalliance.ms/