BAWI Act and History of USM Economic Development Program

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has offered the Master of Science in Economic Development (MSED) program since 1979.  Southern Miss was the first in the nation to offer a masters level program in economic development and has continuously produced quality economic development professionals. Economic development is a growing opportunity, and many graduates have seen the opportunities within job postings.  Economic Development is the management of public-private investment collaborations to facilitate sustainable growth in the economy as typically measured by job creation, increased citizen wealth, a greater tax base, and improved quality-of-life.  While many other economic development programs have developed throughout the U.S., USM’s program has remained notable and widely recognized due to the accomplished of both its faculty and alumni.

The University of Southern Mississippi Trent Lott National Center received a brick from the Marion County Development Partnership.  This brick was originally part of a clothing manufacturing plant, Reliance Manufacturing in Columbia, MS.  Reliance Manufacturing was the first company that Mississippi recruited by utilizing modern business attraction methods.  In 1929, Mayor Hugh White recognized the need for balancing agriculture with industry.  He urged the Marion County Chamber of Commerce to begin industrial recruiting, thus in-turn Reliance Manufacturing was recruited.  With the development of the new plant, 300 new jobs would be available in the Columbia area along with a guaranteed $1 million circulated into the local economy over the next 10 years.  Mayor White was elected governor of Mississippi in 1936 and passed a piece of legislation known as the Mississippi Industrial Act.  The act influenced many modern day economic development tools.  The Balancing Agriculture with Industry (BAWI) program, also referred to as “Mississippi’s New Deal plan”, was also passed in 1936.  The program proposed the idea of “state sponsorship and control” with “local financing and operation.”  Twelve firms established plants across the state as a result of the BAWI program, including Ingalls Shipbuilding. Ingalls Shipbuilding still operates today as the largest manufacturing employer in the state and continues to bring economic growth to Mississippi.

The brick from the original Reliance Manufacturing building is on display in the Trent Lott Building at the University of Southern Mississippi. With USM having the nation’s first Master of Science in Economic Development, the brick is a reminder of the establishment of modern day economic development. The program continues to grow as more communities and organizations recognize the need for targeted recruitment of new economic growth.