A Mississippi State program that applies research and technical assistance to improve the international competitiveness of the state's $4 billion furniture industry is receiving an award from the Southern Growth Policies Board.
The university's Institute of Furniture Manufacturing and Management is being honored with the 2004 Southern Growth Innovator Award for its role in boosting the Mississippi industry in the face of increasing global competition.
"While furniture manufacturing is important to the state, many companies and suppliers have been impacted in recent years by imports, primarily from countries where wages are much lower and costs of production are less because of fewer environmental regulations," said institute director Steven Bullard.
Bullard said furniture manufacturing has an economic impact of $4.1 billion in Mississippi each year, and is the state's No. 1 employer among the durable manufactured goods industry. The MSU institute provides research, service and education to help increase the international competitiveness of manufacturers, he added.
More specifically, the Southern Growth Innovator Award recognizes the MSU institute for assisting Mississippi furniture manufacturers in a variety of ways to prevent job dislocation and/or help displaced workers recover more quickly.
The institute conducts multi-disciplinary applied research to address current and future manufacturing needs of the furniture industry. This includes the implementation of "lean manufacturing” processes, which are designed to produce superior quality products at a low cost for furniture and supplying businesses.
"It has been estimated that furniture research at Mississippi State University is saving the state's manufacturers around $3 million each year,” said Liam Leightley, head of MSU's department of forest products.
He said creation of the institute in 2001 and the opening of MSU's Franklin Center for Furniture Manufacturing and Management earlier this year represent novel moves to help furniture manufacturers and supplying businesses reach their full potential.
"Our expertise in furniture manufacturing and management will allow our state's manufacturers to thrive and prosper in an ever-increasing competitive global marketplace,” Leightley predicted.
Mississippi State established the furniture institute as an interdisciplinary unit that includes the College of Forest Resources, Forest and Wildlife Research Center, College of Business and Industry, Bagley College of Engineering, College of Architecture and the MSU Extension Service.
The Southern Growth Policies Board is a non-partisan public policy think tank based in North Carolina. The board is a public-private partnership devoted to strengthening the South's economy and creating the highest possible quality of life.