When it comes to military operations and the defense industry, few areas in the U.S. equal the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Covering all branches of the military, the area is home to Keesler Air Force Base (“Electronic Training Center of Excellence” for the World), Naval Construction Battalion Center, Air and Army National Guard, and U.S. Coast Guard Station Gulfport (Harrison County). The U.S. Navy is also the largest tenant at Stennis Space Center. Bridging the strong military presence in the region with the private sector, the Mississippi Gulf Coast boasts a presence of at least four of the top 13 defense contractors. There is a total of approximately 700 defense contractors in the area and close to 600 defense contracts were awarded in 2011 alone. The area is a true intersection of technology and defense from every angle – air, ground, sea, space and cyberspace.
The southeast region of Mississippi, which includes the Gulf Coast, is home to over 1,000 tier one, tier two and tier three defense contractors* plus U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard bases. Approximately 55 defense-related manufacturers are located in Mississippi, and combined, they employ 21,000 people in the state. The Mississippi Gulf Coast region also has one of the greatest concentrations of avionics and aircraft maintenance personnel in the U.S. when compared to all mid-size metropolitan markets.
An estimated 40,000 Mississippians are employed by the military, and there are a number of military bases located throughout the state. The state is ranked tenth nationally in DoD contract value per capita.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Moss Point, which manufactures and assembles Fire Scout and Global Hawk UAVs, is producing one of the most technologically advanced unmanned systems anywhere. Northrop Grumman also manufactures the United States Navy’s MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, is America’s largest rocket and engine test complex and its high-performance computing capability ranks 10th worldwide. Three of the most powerful supercomputers in the world are also located in Stennis Space Center.
The ability to move raw materials in and finished product out to market is essential to successful aerospace and defense companies. Prime Gulf Coast locations offer both highway and rail access. Throughout the southeastern part of the state are five U.S. Customs ports of entry and three foreign trade zones.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is also home to two deepwater ports. Pascagoula is home to the largest industrial tonnage port in the state and provides a 38-foot channel depth for ships. Just down the Coast is the Port of Gulfport, a bulk, break-bulk and container seaport, has nearly 6,000 feet of berthing space and averages over 2 million tons of cargo a year.
Mississippi’s highway system ranks the best in the mid-South, and its central location is within a day’s drive of more than 50 percent of the U.S. business population, including such major markets as Atlanta, Birmingham, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, Memphis, Mobile, Nashville, New Orleans and St. Louis. Twenty rail systems serve Mississippi with more than 2,800 miles of track.
Major air carriers serve the state with connections to principal cities throughout the world. Mississippi is home to 75 airports, including the Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport and Jackson-Evers International Airport, the state’s busiest. Three other major commercial airports can also be found near the state, including The Memphis International Airport, Mobile Regional Airport and the New Orleans International Airport.