Stennis Makes Pitch For NASA Center - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

03/15/04

Stennis Makes Pitch For NASA Center

Sean O'Keefe said he'll know by the end of the year where NASA should build its shared services center. Stennis is vying with five other NASA facilities for that complex. They are in Cleveland, OH, Huntsville, AL, Houston, TX, Cape Canaveral, FL, and Hampton, VA.

On Monday, the Stennis package got a boost from Mississippi and Louisiana lawmakers.

Right now, NASA has a parking lot next to the Stennis administration building. But NASA chief Sean O'Keefe could turn that lot into his agency's new shared services center.

"I'm overwhelmed with the state, federal and local support here in the Mississippi/Louisiana area," the NASA director said.

During a news conference, O'Keefe stood next to Mississippi's governor and Lieutenant Governor, two of its congressional leaders, and a representative from Louisiana. They're all trying to lure the 135,000 square foot complex to Hancock County.

Gov. Haley Barbour spoke for the Mississippi delegation.

"This would be another step in the fulfillment of Stennis' potential for Mississippi and Louisiana," he said.

Mississippi lawmakers have bills pending in Jackson that could put $19 million toward the Stennis project. Rep. Dirk Dedeaux said Harrison, Hancock and Pearl River Counties have pledged $2.5 million.

At the meeting with O'Keefe, Louisiana agreed to donate one million dollars for workforce training. Why Louisiana? Because roughly a quarter of the employees who drive through Stennis' front gate live in Louisiana.

Don Hutchinson is Louisiana's Secretary of Economic Development. He represented Gov. Kathleen Blanco at the Stennis summit.

"We saw this as the perfect opportunity to partner once more to help bring a good project to Mississippi," he said, "which will in turn help Louisiana citizens."

According to Gov. Barbour, "We made what we think is a compelling package that we presented to the administrator. They have a lot to look at, and a ways to go, but I think we clearly put our best foot forward."

Director O'Keefe summed up the Stennis presentation with two short sentences.

"This is a very competitive proposal," he said. "It's very, very impressive."

by Brad Kessie

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