The center, funded largely through bonds that were part of the incentive package that helped recruit Toyota to Mississippi, was credited as the brainchild of both Barbour and former Chancellor Robert Khayat. It combines curriculum and faculty from the Schools of Engineering, Accountancy and Business Administration to educate students in a cross-disciplinary approach to manufacturing management.
Chancellor Dan Jones labeled the center “a catalyst for jobs in our state, a stronger economy and better lives for Mississippians.”
IHL Board President Ed Blakeslee said Barbour’s legacy as governor is summarized by the words “job creation” and the companies he helped recruit to Mississippi at a time when manufacturing jobs had recently been disappearing at a frightening rate.
“These are jobs with companies that require workers that are highly skilled, highly trained, highly educated, highly motivated and, consequently, highly paid,” Blakeslee said.
Barbour said having the CME named for him is “a family recogntion.” He credited a host of people with helping bring the Center to reality, chief among them the folks at Toyota.
“After we recruited Toyota to build the Blue Springs plant in 2007, the company agreed with the state and university that funds from the bond issue would be used to create and commence operation of a new center for manufacturing excellence,” he said. “Toyota is a great corporate citizen, and they have a true vision of the future. They understood this would not only be good for Toyota; this would be good for Mississippi.”
The Center for Manufacturing Excellence provides undergraduate education, research support and cooperation, extension services working with the manufacturing community and collaboration with K-12 schools and community colleges.
Its facility, the only new building on Lyceum Circle in several decades, encompasses 47,000 square feet on three floors. It includes classrooms, study and work areas exclusively for the use of CME students and 400 photovolatic solar panels - the state’s largest roof-mounted sun-generated power complex.
The facility’s ground floor houses a 12,000-square-foot factory with full manufacturing lines for wood, metal and plastic fabrication. Already students create products by which they learn manufacturing processes.
“At some point we’ll actually design and create products and bring them to market,” said Timothy McArthur, an engineering major from Edwards.
Barbour focused his closing remarks on the Center for Manufacturing Excellence’s students.
“Know that we expect a lot from you,” he told them. “The good news is, if you do good by us and good by Mississippi, you will at the same time do you well for yourself and your family.
“And after all, that is the way of American Capitalism.”