Hancock County, MS | P.O. Box 2267 Bay St. Louis, MS 39521 | 706 Highway 90 | Waveland, Mississippi 39576 | Toll Free: 800.558.1658  | Phone: 228.467.9231 | Fax: 228.467.9341
FacebookTwitterLinked In

Mississippi Polymer Institute partnership provides economic development advantage

July 31, 2015

Hancock County's high-tech polymer and advanced materials industries enjoy a close working relationship with the Mississippi Polymer Institute (MPI), the outreach arm of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at the University of Southern Mississippi. 

"Our goal is to utilize the resources and capabilities we have as well as the School of Polymers to help grow business within the state," said MPI's Robert Thompson.

The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission considers MPI an important economic development partner.

"We work with MPI on a range of initiatives that help us grow our Polymers and Advanced Materials cluster," said Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission Executive Director Ashley Edwards. "Having the Polymer Institute located in South Mississippi gives us a tremendous regional competitive advantage in economic development, and MPI has been one of the contributing factors to Hancock County's success in recruiting and retaining several large industrial polymer producers."

MPI is located in The Accelerator at the University of Southern Mississippi's Innovation and Commercialization Park known as The Garden. The Accelerator, in partnership with MPI, is the only technology incubator that offers the infrastructure and capabilities to develop a new advanced material technology under one roof.

Dr. Shelby Thames started the university's polymer sciences program in the early 1970s, focusing on coatings, which was his primary research field. "Over the years the school has maintained its coating focus, while adding a plastics focus, and now the growing area is high performance composites," said Thompson.

In 1993 the state funded the MPI to focus on fostering business growth in the state using those resources Dr. Thames' efforts had grown.

MPI offers technical services such as analytical testing and chemical analysis. "If a company has been running a part for five years and suddenly the part starts breaking, we help find out what's going on in the process to find the cause of that failure," Thompson said.

MPI also offers rapid prototyping or 3D printing for manufacturers looking to have parts modeled before they spend a lot of money on tools. "Instead of looking at a drawing, we produce an example of the part and pass it on to engineers to look at and see if it fits in the assemblyand does what they want it to do. It gives businesses the opportunity to produce a part before spending money on mass production."

MPI also focuses on workforce development by offering classes in specialized areas such as injection molding, extrusion, blow molding and lean manufacturing.
MPI recently partnered with GE Aviation in Ellisville to provide high performance composite classes for its employees. "Mississippi is the only state that has two GE Aviation facilities focused on composite materials," Thompson said. "It's an excellent success story."

As part of their workforce development efforts, MPI and the USM Polymer Sciences program have teamed up to develop and grow high school polymer programs, including the one in Hancock County.

Kim Luck, the business development analyst for MPI, travels the state working with industries and recruiting new high school programs. 

"Mississippi is growing industry throughout the state and there is an immediate need for a trained workforce; so when students have technical training like the polymer science programs offer, they are better prepared to work in industry," she said.

Industry partners are vital to the high school programs, Luck said. They provide job shadowing opportunities, tours of plants to show students how manufacturing works, and they donate volunteers, materials and money to support the programs.

"Hancock County has a plethora of opportunities with industry and Stennis Space Center. It's an excellent location for the Hancock program and they are lucky to have industry near them," she said.

#Aerospace, #Polymers

For More Info: 14054 Fred & Al Key Road
Kiln, Mississippi 39556 (228) 467-9231
Map14054 Fred & Al Key Road
Kiln, Mississippi 39556
Toll Free: 800.558.1658

Site Selection

Regional Data


Business and Industry