By NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi made an unprecedented commitment to regional prosperity and development on Thursday with the formation of a joint task force to address education and economic opportunities.
Chancellor Dan Jones of Ole Miss and President Mark Keenum of Mississippi State – addressing the annual Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi’s State of the Region meeting in Tupelo – said the task force, drawn from the top ranks of their academic inner circles, will identify ventures in which the diverse program and service resources of both universities can be brought to bear in economic growth and educational enhancement.
Journal Inc. Chairman Billy Crews, immediate past chairman of the commission, said he believes a joint undertaking of the two universities and the commission is a possibility, one we believe would hold great potential.
Jones, who was inaugurated in April after almost a year on the job in Oxford, cited the success of the Research Triangle enterprise and region in North Carolina, which joins the intellectual resources of North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke universities.
Such an enterprise, as Keenum noted, which would naturally complement and draw from the long-grounded service structure at Mississippi State, a land grant university like North Carolina State.
The payback could be phenomenal.
Duke University, North Carolina State, and North Carolina have drawn worldwide attention because of their collaboration in developing a research park in which 42,000 employees now work. Thirteen counties have allied themselves in an economic focus with the park and the three major universities.
The average research park salary is higher than the North Carolina regional and national averages, with starting pay not uncommon at $56,000 annually or higher. The average per capita income in Northeast Mississippi is about half that – about 69 percent of the national average.
It is noteworthy that in the mid-1970s the research park set aside 120 acres in a campus used to bring together faculty from the three universities and park scientists. More than $2.2 billion in annual research is invested in Research Triangle.
In the Research Triangle region, in part because of collaborative efforts, 47 percent of adults hold at least a bachelor’s degree, one enhancement goal of the commission.
We hope the UM/MSU task force reports soon on its progress, and makes its work transparent from the start.