Jackson County, Mississippi—one of the leading industrial centers along the Gulf Coast—has shown remarkable resiliency in the face of numerous challenges to its economic stability, including major storm events and economic upheavals associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The leadership’s commitment to economic growth has paid dividends, as evidenced by the area’s robust defense-related activity, strong manufacturing sector, and array of physical and institutional assets. While the County currently enjoys positive momentum, there are risks that need to be addressed. This concern is particularly relevant to the County’s flagship industries, including the blue economy, which encompasses shipbuilding, military/defense, and aquaculture. An advantageous geographic location and a steady stream of federal contracting have led to stability in this sector historically; however, long-term success will require a more forward-looking and innovation-centered approach.
In response to the challenge of building an innovation-based economy, the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation (JCEDF) engaged TIP Strategies to help create the Strategic Innovation Plan, a 10-year roadmap to fostering an innovation orientation to growth while aligning with the County’s resources. The plan is organized around the three areas that will require concerted effort and attention from leadership: attracting innovative talent and strengthening the workforce, encouraging real estate development that supports the business and workers of the future, and harnessing the revolutionizing impacts of Industry 4.0. Building on the JCEDF’s existing targets, TIP’s analysis revealed strategic growth areas in five sectors: mobility and defense, energy anchors, industrial suppliers and services, hospitality, and food and marine resources. Although the planning effort encompassed the entire County, the city of Pascagoula was a focal point. In addition to being the location of many of the region’s industrial assets, the city’s ongoing transformation continues to draw accolades and recognition. Recent and planned investments, such as the revitalization of downtown Pascagoula and the Chevron-supported Innovation Center, helped shape the strategies and will create momentum for the plan’s implementation. Armed with this strategic framework, Jackson County is poised to set itself apart from its neighbors and peers as an innovation hub.