October 16, 2023

USM, Port of Gulfport cut ribbon on Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise

Darkhorse Press

A ribbon-cutting was held on Friday, Oct. 13 to formally dedicate the Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise. (Photo by Kelly Dunn, USM Photo Services)

Federal, state and local officials stood at the water’s edge Friday morning and celebrated the completion of the University of Southern Mississippi’s Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise at the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport.

The facility will serve as the centerpiece of research and development in the Gulf, creating a unique maritime technology environment on the Mississippi Coast.

“The Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise is appropriately named and ideally located,” Gov. Tate Reeves said. “This facility will strengthen Mississippi’s growing Blue Economy by charting new pathways for technological innovation from right here in Mississippi. Congratulations to USM on this amazing accomplishment, and I can’t wait to see all the good things that come out of the Center.”

The Center for Ocean Enterprise connects the state’s major research universities, federal partners and private companies to expand the Blue Economy.

“It has been an honor to work alongside so many Mississippians to bring resources to the impressive work our business, technology and educational leaders are conducting,” Senator Roger Wicker said. “This Center will support the innovative work that has put Mississippi’s Blue Economy on the cutting edge of ocean technology. I am eager to see all of the great partnerships and developments that USM will launch from this site.”

The Center’s 62,000-square-foot location at the Port allows maritime operations to have private and secure access to the Gulf of Mexico for ocean exploration, forecasting and data collection. It also promotes investment in high-end engineering and development of advanced technology.

The facility is located near the Port of Gulfport’s North Harbor site and includes administrative offices, classrooms, laboratories and storage areas.

“The opening of this Center allows Southern Miss to be involved in cutting-edge ocean science and positions us as the research, innovation and economic growth gateway to the Gulf of Mexico Blue Economy,” USM President Joe Paul said. “The work done here by USM researchers will transform and advance the state’s Blue Economy. We want to thank our local, state and federal partners, and especially Senator Wicker, for helping us to make this Ocean Enterprise Center a reality.”

Port CEO and Executive Director Jon Nass agreed and said the Center will be a significant addition to the Port.

“The MSPA Board of Commissioners and I are thrilled to reach this important milestone as Gulfport advances to the frontlines of innovation and leadership in the Blue Economy,” he said. “The Wicker Center joins other Port-built assets providing a diverse group of jobs. We are incredibly thankful for the support of our elected officials.”

Officials joining Gov. Reeves for the ceremony included Senators Wicker and Hyde-Smith, Nass, Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, USM President Dr. Joseph S. Paul, USM Vice President for Research Dr. Kelly Lucas, and Port Board of Commissioners President John Rester.

The building was designed by Eley Guild Hardy Architects of Biloxi and constructed by Wharton Smith, Inc.

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