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Released November 24, 2003

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By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG - Two major players in South Mississippi's gaming industry have joined with The University of Southern Mississippi to further develop and ensure a bright future for the area and state's economic fortunes.

The Beau Rivage Resort and Casino and Grand Casinos have partnered together to raise $100,000 for the USM Foundation's permanent endowment for the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship.

The center will bring Southern Miss' renowned multiple academic and professional economic develop programs together in a state-of-the-art educational facility that will serve and advance the economic development professional throughout the state, nation and world.

"Beau Rivage and Grand Casinos are extremely proud to have fueled support from the Mississippi Gulf Coast gaming industry and its key vendors in raising funds for this premier facility," said Jeff Dahl, Beau Rivage president and member of the State Steering Committee for the project.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has designated the Trent Lott National Center at Southern Miss as a national center for economic development. The center was awarded this designation because of its special outreach component that takes the research to community leaders, government officials, and businesses to teach them to utilize the information and turn it into development for Mississippi, the region and the nation.

"The center will be very important to the future growth of our state. It will not only benefit the university research efforts, but all the residents of Mississippi by providing a catalyst for future development," said Duncan McKenzie, president of Grand Casino Biloxi and State Steering Committee member. "This is a very exciting opportunity and I am proud of the casino industry and its vendors for taking a leadership roll in the fundraising effort."

An $8 million campaign to help fund the construction and endowment of the center is currently underway. The campaign is a dual initiative, combining fund-raising drives through both a national and state committee.

Southern Miss alumnus Bobby Chain, a former Hattiesburg mayor and State Institutions for Higher Learning board member, is the National Coordinating Chair for the project. Gov.-elect Haley Barbour is the National Committee Chair, and Mississippi Power President and CEO Michael Garrett serves as State Committee Chair.

"We're grateful to our friends at the Beau Rivage and Grand Casinos and all of those who see the benefits that this project will bring not only to South Mississippi, but to the nation and the world as we seek to improve the quality of life for our citizens through the economic development profession," said Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames.



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April 20, 2004 4:48 PM