MSU opens major furniture research, development center

Contact: Maridith Geuder

In Friday [Jan. 23] dedication ceremonies at Mississippi State, Gov. Haley Barbour cited the new campus research center as an example of universities helping businesses become better.

Barbour joined MSU President Charles Lee and other state and university officials to open the Franklin Center for Furniture Manufacturing and Management. Rep. Billy McCoy of Rienzi, new speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jack Gordon of Okolona also participated.

The facility is named for Houston furniture executive Hassell Franklin, who made a $1 million signature contribution to begin construction. Another $3 million was provided by the state, with additional corporate and private donations making the center a reality.

Saying Mississippi must embrace change in bold ways, Barbour told the audience that "it is fitting that this be a new example of universities helping business be better. What is important is what will be done in this building."

Lee said the 35,000-square-foot facility will house a comprehensive furniture research, testing and technical assistance program that "will bring a new level of research and development capability for our state."

The center also will house the new Institute of Furniture Manufacturing and Management, which consolidates and coordinates efforts of a number of MSU units. In addition to the College of Forest Resources and Forest and Wildlife Research Center, they include the colleges of Architecture and Business and Industry, as well as the Bagley College of Engineering, and MSU Extension Service.

Lee said the institute will address needs expressed by many of the state's 200 firms that account for more than 27,000 Mississippi jobs. Mississippi produces about 70 percent of the nation's upholstered furniture, he added.

"We've seen increasing industry requests for research and technical assistance," Lee said. "Because the industry is made up of many relatively small firms, it is often difficult to address these concerns on their own. We're now in a better position than ever to provide that assistance."

Franklin, founder, president and chief executive officer of the Houston (Miss.)-based Franklin Corp. and a 1959 MSU industrial management graduate, said more than 50 percent of the furniture sold in the U.S. last year was manufactured offshore.

"We must respond in a positive and proactive way, and this center can be a huge part of that process," Franklin said. "This land-grant institution will raise the bar on lifting forward the furniture industry in Mississippi."

Lee said the institute will support the furniture industry "through research that aids in the design, production, marketing, and distribution of high quality products that meet the changing needs of families and businesses here and abroad. We will also offer technical support to deliver new technologies, methods, and findings to industry, help to ensure a high quality workforce, and educate future managers and leaders for the industry."

In addition to laboratories for quality testing, engineering and automation and product design, the Franklin Center also features an auditorium, distance learning classroom, computer classroom, furniture showroom, and administrative offices.

Fri, 01/23/2004 - 06:00