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Grant Awarded to MS Defense Initiative to Boost Diverse Economies

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 10:16am | By: Margaret Ann Macloud

The Mississippi Defense Initiative (MDI)The Mississippi Defense Initiative (MDI), housed at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Trent Lott National Center, was recently awarded an 18-month grant that will assist in developing strategic plans for defense economies on the Mississippi Coast through the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation and the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport.

The grant is a Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment (DoD OEA) award, and it will be used by MDI to implement Phase 3 of MDI’s mission to promote and diversify the state’s defense economy through three main industry sectors: blue economy, aerospace, and national security.

"We are tremendously excited about the opportunity to continue the Mississippi Defense Initiative and be able to assist state leaders in improving our defense economy,” MDI Program Director Andy Kilgore said. “The continued grant funding will allow us to build a stronger defense and national security network in Mississippi and continue our Blue Economy and Aerospace expansion efforts."

As part of Phase 3 under the DoD grant, the Port of Gulfport will develop a Strategic Port Plan to align with the State Defense Plan related to dual-use defense and non-defense use of the port. The plan will also focus on continued growth of civilian and commercial traffic at the port while keeping in mind the work being done in downtown Gulfport to support the infrastructure and transportation system connected to port operations.

The Port will co-host a Strategic Port Summit on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that will showcase the advantages, capabilities and economic benefits of using the Port of Gulfport in its role as one of 17 strategic seaports in the nation.

“Now is the time to participate in a strategic planning process that will meld the port’s operations with our increasing role in supporting our nation’s military and national security,” said Matthew Wypyski, Port of Gulfport Deputy Executive Director & COO. “The Port of Gulfport is positioned well for continued growth, and we look forward to working with the Mississippi Defense Initiative in further developing a strong blue economy for Mississippi.”

The grant will also assist the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation in developing a strategic innovation plan for the county that will allow it to take an inventory of existing assets in the industrial sector, research and development facilities, and quality of life in order to continue to diversify its economy. The desired outcome is to grow Jackson County into a hub of defense-focused technology and manufacturing excellence in order to support the growing national security and defense demands.

Jackson County has a diversified industrial base, including shipbuilding, aerospace, chemical, and suppliers to prime contractors. It also has flagship industry with diverse portfolios of product while balancing industry with a natural environment. The strategic plan will consider

global opportunities, maximizing industry, and university and federal agency assets to help grow the innovation economy.

“We are excited about being a partner in this DOD/OEA grant as we continue to build upon a diverse economy of defense including shipbuilding, aerospace and other sectors such as chemical and lite manufacturing,” JCEDF Deputy Director Mary Martha Henson said. “This affords us an opportunity to explore new growth and diversification opportunities.”

The MDI is a grant-funded program from the DoD OEA that works with public and private sector partners who believe in the promise of a diverse Mississippi economy. The ultimate goal of Phase 3 is to transition the MDI office and program from federal/DoD funds to a sustainable model using in-state money and transition to a state-level office to coordinate, guide, market, disseminate information, and facilitate policy recommendations for Mississippi’s defense economy.

Phase 3 will start on August 1. For more information about MDI, visit