New Campaign Aims To Bring Jobs To I-59 Corridor

You may not realize it, but along Mississippi's 168-mile stretch of Interstate 59 are dozens of high tech industries. At a news conference on Wednesday, Hattiesburg's Area Development Partnership announced a new campaign to market I-59 as a "technology corridor."

"What we have in this strategy today are existing resources, existing companies that are thriving and just beginning to network to build a thriving technology base for the state of Missisissippi," said Gray Swoope, Area Development Partnership president.

The core of the marketing plan is this high energy, interactive web site. It lists each of the major technology hubs along I-59 starting with Meridian in the north down to Stennis Space Center. The web site is a tool to entice new industries, and thus more high tech jobs to I-59.

"It's going to mean an awful lot to Hancock County as well as the entire corridor, but especially at the south as it relates to the kind of industry that we already have there," Hancock County Port Commission Director Hal Walters said.

Why is this campaign needed? All over the nation, cities and counties are spending thousands of dollars to build the infastructure needed to lure industry, but development leaders say all of that already exists along I-59. The problem is industry leaders don't know about it.

"I think it's a tremendous idea, I think it's long overdue," said Dr. Shelby Thames, a polymer scientist.  "I think that this begins to highlight the technical capabilities that exist in Mississippi."

Dr. Shelby Thames started Southern Diversifed Products two years ago. The Hattiesburg industry manufacturers non-toxic paint. In addition to bringing new industries to I-59, the new campaign is expected to help existing industries like Southern Diversified Products network and become more well known.