Students in The University of Southern Mississippi Master of Science in Economic Development program recently presented their summer 2013 capstone project, the Southwest Mississippi Cluster Analysis, to community leaders at the Southwest Community College in Summit.
At the beginning of the summer, the Southwest Mississippi Partnership and Entergy commissioned Southern Miss to analyze the potential for oil and gas/chemical and polymer clusters to develop in the southwestern region of Mississippi and eastern region of Louisiana.
The study area is part of the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale region, where hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is expected to unlock seven billion barrels of oil and natural gas creating an economic boom for the region. In addition to attracting the oil and gas industry, other industries (e.g., chemical, polymer, and other energy intensive manufacturers) might be expected to locate in the region since the output from fracking is one of their key inputs.
The student team included Alex Pickle, Bryan Parker, Daniel Assamah, Faisal Mallum, Golda Sharpe, James Dickens, Josiah Ball, Molly Egloff, and Wuyang Wang. The team used public and proprietary data along with research methodologies learned in their MSED studies to assess current industries in the region and the clustering effect of the petroleum extraction and petrochemical industries.
An input/output analysis was completed using sophisticated software and identified gaps in the clusters that can be filled through industrial recruitment and/or internal development. The analysis found some excellent potential for economic development in the region and the partners are now considering their options for next steps.
The students made a number of marketing and policy recommendations including the need for transportation planning to handle the increased freight traffic. Each hydraulic fracturing well requires an average of 2,500 trucks inbound/outbound over its life and even today area roads are experiencing damage. They pointed out the opportunity to utilize the region’s extensive pipeline network and availability of barge traffic on the Mississippi River to help make the region more competitive.
The students also recommended that collaboration reach across state lines and that the region develop a comprehensive marketing strategy including a united regional brand to improve awareness and maximize resource utilization.
Southern Miss and the Trent Lott National Center will continue to work with the Southwest Mississippi Partnership to increase the sustainable economy of the region and to maximize the job growth potential from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.