EDITORIAL: Measuring vision

The safe return of the space shuttle Atlantis, apparently successful repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope by the Atlantis crew, and the naming of a new NASA director – former astronaut and retired Marine Gen. Charles Bolden – made a stellar week for the American space program.
It also suggests a strong future for NASA’s major Mississippi facility, the Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the civilian agency in charge of space science and exploration for the U.S. government.
NASA’s work and focus remain important as the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing approaches in July. In fact, a return to the moon and perhaps exploration into deeper space, is the ideal and vision sustaining NASA’s heroic status among the American public.
In practical terms for our state, NASA and wide-ranging associated and affiliated enterprises, many in the private sector, at the Stennis Space Center are big business: 5,000 employees, including 1,700 engineers and scientists.
It’s direct economic impact within 50 miles has been measured this year at $690 million by economists at Mississippi State University.
The work force at Stennis (NASA and military contractors) requires advanced education, an education attainment profile for which every community and region should strive:
- Doctoral – 6 percent.
- Master’s – 19 percent.
- Bachelor’s – 32 percent.
- Associate – 10 percent.
- Some College – 16 percent.
- High School Diploma – 16 percent.
- Other – 1 percent.
The MSU summary calculates that had Stennis “not been in operation in 2008, considering both direct and indirect effects, a very conservative estimate of reduction in employment for the local area would be almost 31,778 jobs.”
Similarly, a “conservative estimate indicates that personal income would have been reduced by more than $1.2 billion, and retail sales would have been reduced by $491 million. It is estimated that Stennis has an impact of $132 million on local government tax revenue.”
Our region, Northeast Mississippi, isn’t likely to land a federal investment like the Stennis Space Center, but its long-term economic impact illustrates how important maximizing the multiplying benefit of private-sector investment like Toyota’s Blue Springs assembly plant can become.
No one on the Mississippi Gulf Coast envisioned at first in the 1960s what the rocket motor test facility in Hancock County would mean to the economy, but the vision was soon captured.
Northeast Mississippians must understand the potential in Toyota and its extended impact in the same way – a sea change opportunity for our region.

NEMS Daily Journal