USM conference looks at 'blue economy' opportunities

Published: Jun. 5, 2014 at 8:00 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2014 at 9:52 AM CDT
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LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - They are exploring opportunities in the so-called "blue economy." A conference Thursday at the Gulf Coast campus of USM is focused on future research projects and business possibilities involving the Gulf of Mexico. It's called the Marine Technologies Economic Forum.

In his welcome, USM President Dr. Rodney Bennett told the group researchers at Southern Miss are already actively engaged in gulf related research.

"As they predict ocean currents that impact oil and gas extractions, improve sustainable resource management, and partnership with the fisheries and tourism industry," he said.

A panel discussion about opportunities in the gulf region included port improvements and attracting more maritime industry.

"We have the opportunity here to fundamentally change the future of our maritime economy. So I think the continued investment in infrastructure is going to be absolutely crucial to being able to achieve the economic growth and opportunity that's out there right now," said Ashley Edwards with the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission.

"We're for economic development. We just want to do it in the right way. And we want to be able to take that sediment and use it for beneficial use," said Dr. Kelly Lucas, chief scientific officer for the Department of Marine Resources.

Governor Phil Bryant told the group the gulf region must be aggressive in pursuing economic opportunity. He pointed to GE and its plans to test underwater turbines to generate electricity.

"That water out there is always moving. And not only out here, but we've got a pretty good sized river just to the west of the border of this state. So this is the type of opportunities we need to look at," said the governor.

USM will have an academic partner in future gulf research projects. The university signed a partnership agreement with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, a recognized leader in marine research.

Governor Bryant said one big advantage of the gulf region is the considerable research and scientific knowledge and expertise located here. He told the group, they may not realize it, but Stennis has the largest collection of oceanographers in the world.

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