USM teases innovative ‘New Blue Economy’ plan with Gulfport Main Street Association

USM teases innovative ‘New Blue Economy’ plan with Gulfport Main Street Association

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Gulfport Main Street Association and the University of Southern Mississippi are teasing plans to bring hundreds of science and tech jobs to the Gulf Coast.

“People think resilience is about bouncing back… It’s really about bouncing forward," said Monty Graham, USM’s associate vice president for research coastal operations.

According to Graham, Coast residents can look forward to a major project at the Port of Gulfport by the end of August. An overview was given at the Gulfport Main Street Association meeting on Wednesday night. Graham noted that the project is expected to bring up to 500 jobs in science, technology, engineering and math.

One key element of the project includes the development of unmanned marine systems, also known as drones.

“It means developing new ways to map the ocean floor, to go out and understand fisheries, to look for things that might protect us, whether it’s homeland security or defense," explained Graham.

At the meeting, Gulfport Main Street Association members were given a quick update on developing projects, including the Mississippi Aquarium and the Backlot at Trackside Innovation District, both of which are expected to expand the "New Blue Economy.”

“Through partnerships with the city, with the state, our federal delegation in Washington D.C., we’re bringing this entire ecosystem to Mississippi,” Graham said.

The term refers to the maritime industry, which is often bolstered by disaster relief funds.

Graham noted that the push for a New Blue Economy is to make the Coast a prime location for young, tech-savvy individuals who often leave Mississippi to find work.

“In this state, we do lose our best and our brightest,” said Graham. "We want to show that there are work and employment opportunities here.”

He hopes the new project helps make the Coast self-sustaining by putting technology at the forefront.

“We do things that are considered dull, dirty, or dangerous. And we’re going to have to rely on these technologies," he said. “Somebody’s going to have to build them, somebody’s going to have to test them."

Graham says the full scope of the Port of Gulfport’s innovative project will be revealed by the end of the month.

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