David Shaw remembers the day the Thad Cochran Research Park opened its third incubator building about a year ago, because it was the same day as the groundbreaking ceremony for its fourth incubator building.
Shaw, Mississippi State University’s vice president for research and economic development, said the first two incubator buildings at the research park were full by the days of their grand openings. On Monday, he said, the fourth and newest incubator building was already full as well.
“We’re already beginning discussions of what our fifth incubator building is going to look like,” Shaw said. “Our brightest days are yet to come.”
Representatives from MSU, government officials, and business leaders gathered Monday to celebrate the grand opening of a new 20,000-square-foot incubator housing operations for II-VI Inc. as well as faculty, student and community start-ups.
Based in Pennsylvania, II-VI specializes in engineered materials and optoelectronic components, particularly silicon carbide-based products.
U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss. said MSU’s research programs will be an asset to II-VI, and II-VI will become an asset to the region as silicon carbide becomes more and more of an asset to America.
“We are certainly becoming even more aware of the tremendous advantages of silicon carbide,” Harper said. “Silicon carbide’s ability to operate in high-temperature, high-power and hostile environments produces performance that benefits not only the aircraft and automotive (industries, but also) military applications (and) NASA. The list goes on and on as the research and development on this continues. Since my first meeting with this company, they have discussed expanding their operations in Mississippi. I can tell you they have been true to their word.”
Vincent Mattera, executive vice president of II-VI, said the company plans to add more than $4 million in capital equipment to the new facility. When II-VI first came to the research park, he said, it had nine employees in Starkville, but it now has 14, and he expects the company’s Starkville presence to grow to more than 100 employees if market demand for II-VI’s products rises as industry insiders predict.
“When we looked at a location to begin building our manufacturing operation, we evaluated several communities around the country and chose Starkville because of the strong support we received from the various government and economic development agencies, the university that is conducting relevant research in the applications of our products, and the presence of a long-term strategic customer in SemiSouth Laboratories,” Mattera said. “(The Starkville area is) a collective community that shares our values and has made us feel right at home.”
MSU President Mark Keenum said three faculty start-ups, five student start-ups, one faculty-student venture and two community ventures have already leased space in the new facility. He was one of several guest speakers to give thanks to the business, government and university leaders who made the facility possible.
“The solid partnerships on display here today... put us in a strong position to have a positive impact,” Keenum said. “(The new facility is a) big step for us as we move forward in helping to improve so many lives in our state and our economy. We appreciate very much the commitment by II-VI to the prospect of bringing high-tech jobs to this area, including (jobs for) MSU graduates.”
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. said small businesses like II-VI and entrepreneurs like II-VI’s neighbors in the incubator are key to American economic security.
“It’s great when you get a steel mill in town,” Wicker said. “It’s great when a Nissan picks Mississippi, or a Toyota ... but that’s not how we tackle job creation in the United States of America, as much as we would like to. We create jobs at the small-business level in the USA, 100 jobs at a time, if you please. We do it with start-ups; we do it with honoring and affirming entrepreneurship as II-VI has done.”
One of the last guests to speak was the research park’s namesake, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. He said he was honored for Starkville to have the new incubator and to have II-VI in it, because he believes II-VI will attract many to work in Starkville and learn at MSU.
“We are bringing together the best-qualified and most creative minds to help work together to demonstrate the rewards here in Starkville of innovation and entrepreneurship,” Cochran said. “I can’t think of a better reason to be here than to look forward to generations of continued success of the companies and businesses who choose to settle here, (to) rub shoulders with the best we have in our country and to continue to develop opportunities for business success (and) intellectual curiosity in Starkville.”