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August 29, 2017
New Group of Graduate Research Assistants

With the start of the fall semester, the Masters of Science in Economic Development (MSED) program has a new cohort of research assistants to welcome. The following students will spend the next year working on applied community projects while completing their MSED degree. Click on each name to view and connect with them on LinkedIn. 

Graduate Assistant Hometown
Walter Baker Mabank, Texas
Shane Chadwick Columbus, Mississippi
Derek Halbasch Sacramento, California
David Jordan Waynesboro, Mississippi
Elizabeth Lee Oak Grove, Mississippi
Dongxin Lin Shenzen, China
Picayune, Mississippi
Wesson, Mississippi
Oprah Payne Memphis, Tennessee
Wood Products Tour

The Mississippi Forestry Association and Georgia-Pacific (GP) hosted a tour of the Leaf River Cellulose plant in Perry County for the new MSED graduate assistants. With over 300 employees and an annual payroll of $30 million, the manufacturer of specialty and market fluff pulp is one of the top five largest manufacturing employers in the greater Hattiesburg area. Leaf River's pulp products are used in applications ranging from paper products to diapers to foods and pharmaceuticals. The mill contributes $1.9 million annually directly to the local tax base. The facility began operation in 1984 and is part of the GP Cellulose operations of Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Leaf River ships pulp products around the world and is serviced by its own short-line railroad. The students learned about GP Cellulose's commitment to environmental sustainability including supporting the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and how economic developers support the company's success.  
Hot Spots for Attracting Wood Production Facilities to Mississippi Identified

More wood production capacity is needed in Mississippi to maintain healthy forests and create economic development.  Despite a $12.79B wood industry presence that supports 69,445 jobs in the state, Mississippi is growing twice as much wood as is being used by saw mills, pulp facilities, pellet plants, etc.  This leads to over growth and fire susceptible forests as well as diminishing the desire of land owners to maintain forest lands.  Due to market forces including the great recession and imports, Mississippi has lost productive wood production capacity over the last decade. However, advanced wood manufacturing can be successful in today's economy. The $85M Biewer Lumber Mill in Newton that opened in 2017 and created 125 direct jobs is an example of highly competitive advanced lumber manufacturing. The Mississippi Forest Commission created a heat map to show prime locations for new wood production facilities. By matching this with labor and transportation a competitive analysis can be important tool to assist economic developers with attracting more wood production investment to Mississippi and sustain the State's forests. 
Southern Miss Economic Development | tasha.may@usm.edu | 118 College Drive #5191
Hattiesburg, MS 39401-0001