Aerospace cluster shows potential for growth

January 1, 2015

Advanced aviation production and aerospace have a strong foothold as one of the United States' most powerful industry sectors. With recent market analysis showing annual growth at 14 percent, the aerospace industry shows promise for continued growth - good news for Hancock County's aerospace cluster.

Industry clusters are defined as groups of firms within industries sharing linked commonalities, which exist in geographic proximity to each other, with the link becoming beneficial for all firms within the cluster. Several industry clusters exist within Hancock County, including the aerospace and science cluster at Stennis Space Center and the aviation and aerospace technology cluster at Stennis International Airport.

The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission focuses on aerospace cluster-related development, including efforts to attract suppliers and service providers who locate in geographic proximity of complementary industries as a business strategy. Home to NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center and Stennis International Airport, Hancock County is a leader in aerospace sector development in Mississippi, and is primed for continued aerospace-related growth. Hancock County's target aerospace industries coincide directly with the existing infrastructure designed to support these industries. Stennis Space Center is home to an aerospace cluster that includes peripheral services in the research, development, and materials-testing segments. Additionally, Stennis Space Center boasts a scientific cluster centered on the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration's assets at Stennis. This includes laboratories and research complexes that are owned by NASA, the Department of Defense, and the Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning.

The aerospace/science cluster at Stennis Space Center presents Hancock County's best opportunity to target complementary industries, as Stennis is nationally-known as a hotbed of aerospace and science activity. "Hancock County's Stennis Space Center is the anchor of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor, and it provides a mature aerospace cluster to leverage for additional development," said Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission Executive Director Ashley Edwards. Edwards noted that several large aerospace companies already call Hancock County home, including Aerojet Rocketdyne, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, and Rolls-Royce.

The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission owns, manages and leases buildings and other assets to industries within Stennis International Airport, in addition to serving as the economic development authority for Hancock County. Target industries at Stennis International Airport include those similar to the existing cluster of defense-technology firms, aerospace assembly and manufacturing firms, and cargo-oriented operations utilizing the airport's transportation infrastructure. The airport provides a unique opportunity for aerospace industrial growth in Hancock County, as it features nearly 1,800 acres for new development, with the majority of the acreage outside the 100-year floodplain. 

The airport is an ideal environment for aerospace and geospatial technology and for both domestic and foreign investors. Hancock County has leading-edge research and practical experience with aerospace firms that span the gamut from satellite builders to companies that build the engines that power spacecraft. "We are quite literally seeing the future of aerospace and aviation advance every day in Hancock County - through the convergence of aviation, engine design and testing, and geospatial technology. Our assets and industry clusters allow for an unmatched merger of information and its applications," Janel Carothers, Director of Business Development for HCPHC, explained.

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