By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
As the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University collaborate to improve Northeast Mississippi, they have a model to follow.
The most successful example of universities working together to boost their region is the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, a partnership of Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina.
Before the three institutions created a research park in 1959, North Carolina was a poor state whose economy had been dominated by furniture, textiles and tobacco.
It ranked near the bottom of the country in per capita income (48th in 1952) and saw a significant percentage of its highly skilled population leave the state for job opportunities, according to John Hardin, the executive director for the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology.
The park quickly became an epicenter for new technology jobs that moved into the region, Hardin wrote in the book “Pathways to High-tech Valleys and Research Triangles.” The region and the state quickly boomed.
The Research Triangle Park houses more than 170 research and development firms and employs more than 42,000 full-time individuals. And, its combined annual salary tops $2.7 billion, according to the Research Triangle Park website.
That effort was cited by Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones and MSU President Mark Keenum when they created their schools’ joint task force to help Northeast Mississippi.
As a North Carolinian, Tupelo Schools Superintendent Randy Shaver is familiar with the benefits of a collaboration of universities there.
“It was the engine to economic growth and created a ripple effect,” Shaver said.