NOARC set to make waves with “Blue Economy”

April 24, 2019

Hancock County, Mississippi - The National Oceans and Applied Research Center (NOARC) is about to take the plunge.

When Gov. Phil Bryant created NOARC in 2012, he set a lofty goal for Hancock County. He said he wanted it to be the Mississippi Coast’s Woods Hole, a reference to the esteemed ocean-research center in Massachusetts. Bryant said he wanted in a matter of years to see a booming “blue economy” in Mississippi’s waters.

Since then, NOARC’s program architects have been quietly working toward that goal.

NOARC is now ready for Phase 2: Putting those plans into action. Its next step was the recent move to offices in Hancock County’s Stennis International Airport (KHSA) terminal, where it is readily accessible to its business partners from around the world.

“For the first five years, we were incubating NOARC in the Mississippi State University Space and Technology Center at Stennis Space Center (SSC). The University leaders were instrumental to NOARC’s start-up with valuable advice and technical assistance,” NOARC President David Brannon said. “The move to this office space, here at the Stennis International Airport, represents NOARC becoming operational.”

“We’re proud to have NOARC on board,” said Bill Cork, CEO of the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, which owns Stennis Airport. “The goals of the Applications Research Center are far-reaching, but achievable with the technology available today. Hancock County is poised to be in the international forefront of a technologically capable work force to help accomplish NOARC’s goals."

NOARC will initially use federal RESTORE Act funding to assist in long-term monitoring of coastal restoration projects in Mississippi to restore and improve coastal landscapes damaged in the 2010 BP oil spill.

Brannon’s team of industry and university partners will be assembling “the best and brightest” of the world’s technology companies into a new cluster of companies that will create a “space to seafloor” picture of the Mississippi Gulf Coast with an eye on expanding to other areas within  the Gulf of Mexico.

NOARC will deploy unmanned craft above and below the water to establish a baseline of the Gulf coast environment. This can then be used to assess the damage if another disaster occurs. Brannon envisions the systems that create the survey-quality measures of the Gulf will ultimately be spun off into a new companies that can apply those systems across the globe creating jobs for South Mississippians in the process.

“There is no comprehensive baseline of the Mississippi Sound,” Brannon said. “If the government causes the baseline to be created and maintained, it will always have access to that baseline. This is vital to testing and proving new technologies.”

“We’ll also be meeting with international players, and they have wonderful access here at the airport,” Brannon said.

The next big announcement will be this summer, when Brannon introduces the NOARC team of strategic company partners that will begin surveying and monitoring the Gulf coast.

NOARC will be a catalyst to high-paying, quality jobs, and establishing partnerships with area community colleges and workforce training academies to fill those jobs. They’ll be the people who will remotely pilot the craft, and who operate and maintain the sensors and data they will collect.

NOARC is teaming up with Hinds Community College and Pearl River Community College on their unmanned systems and workforce development programs.

“When we employ the first graduates of Hinds or Pearl River (community colleges) to operate our unmanned boats and aircraft,” he said, “that’s success for me. That’s what we’re striving for. I believe that will happen in the next two years.”


As the economic development authority for Hancock County, Mississippi, the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission owns and operates Port Bienville Industrial Park and Stennis International Airport — in addition to fostering business investment for John C. Stennis Space Center, NASA’s premier rocket testing facility. For more information, visit

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