Stennis announces Tech park status

Published 4:02 pm Friday, November 13, 2009

John C. Stennis Space Center now has a technology park that the federal city hopes will attract new companies.

Last Friday, the space center announced the site’s designation. At the event. Stennis officials and some representatives of Mississippi Development Authority, Mississippi Power Company and McCallum Sweeny Consulting spoke about the benefits of having a certified technology park.

Mark Sweeny, senior principal for McCallum Sweeny, said the benefits of having a project-ready site, such as the technology park at Stennis, is that it can attract companies. Project ready sites are those that offer a build-ready site with access to all the typical infrastructure, such as roads, water, sewer and electricity. A technology park will offer all those things in addition to telecommunications and the availability of green space.

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Typically when a technology company builds a facility, it seeks to make it aesthetically pleasing from the road side by incorporating acres of green space. Stennis’ technology park will offer sites that will require at least 50 percent of the site to be left as green space. Sweeny said Stennis has an abundance of land that will suit those needs. Stennis also offers a secure location, which will be an added bonus to a number of companies.

This new certification means Stennis can tell interested companies how long and how much it would cost to build on the site, said John Atherton, vice president of External Affairs for Mississippi Power.

Sweeny said companies look for project-ready sites because they are more cost effective locations on which to build, since they offer all the infrastructure needed to build a new facility.

“Companies are looking to build new facilities on sites that are ready to go and relatively risk free,” Sweeny said.

Sweeny said 10 to 15 years ago companies usually took a risk when building a new facility. Once the site was purchased and development began, the company often found incurred cost increases as problems with site development arose.

Communities that fail to offer project-ready sites are usually passed up by companies with tight time frames. Sites become more lucrative when they meet certain requirements and can be built on quickly. Sweeny said those requirements include the site being fully served by the infrastructure, being easily developed and being available. With this announcement companies will now know that land is available in Stennis.

Stennis has about 3,900 acres of land to offer in the technology park. Sweeny estimates between 50 to 100 companies could build on that much land, depending on the size of the lots each company wants.

Griff Salmon, director of MDA’s Global Business Division, said the certification for Stennis will help it with future economic development. He said economic development is kind of like coming into contact with a grizzly bear. He said he was once given advice about how to survive a grizzly bear encounter. The advice was to put his hands high in the air and make as much noise as possible in the hopes that he would not to be on the menu. While most people wouldn’t dare try the advice, Salmon said making noise about what you have to offer does work for economic development.