Ocean Research Center Offices Open at Stennis

Courtesy of Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission

The National Oceans and Applied Research Center (NOARC) is about to take the plunge.

When Gov. Phil Bryant created NOARC in 2012, he set a lofty goal for Hancock County. He said he wanted it to be the Mississippi Coast’s Woods Hole, a reference to the esteemed ocean-research center in Massachusetts. Bryant said he wanted in a matter of years to see a booming “blue economy” in Mississippi’s waters, and plans have been under way.  

NOARC is now ready for Phase 2: Putting those plans into action. It recently moved to offices in Hancock County’s Stennis International Airport (KHSA) terminal, where it is readily accessible to its business partners from around the world.  

“We’re proud to have NOARC on board,” said Bill Cork, CEO of the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, which owns Stennis Airport. “The goals of the Applications Research Center are far-reaching, but achievable with the technology available today. Hancock County is poised to be in the international forefront of a technologically capable work force to help accomplish NOARC’s goals.”

NOARC will deploy unmanned craft above and below the water to establish a baseline of the Gulf coast environment. This can then be used to assess the damage if another disaster occurs. NOARC President David Brannon envisions the systems that create the survey-quality measures of the Gulf will ultimately be spun off into a new company that can apply those systems across the globe, creating jobs for South Mississippians in the process.  

“We’ll also be meeting with international players, and they have wonderful access here at the airport,” he said.  

The next big announcement will be this summer, when Brannon introduces the NOARC team of strategic company partners that will begin surveying and monitoring the Gulf coast. NOARC will be a catalyst to high-paying, quality jobs, and establishing partnerships with area community colleges and workforce training academies to fill those jobs. They will be the people who will remotely pilot the craft and who will operate and maintain the sensors and data they collect. NOARC is teaming up with Hinds Community College and Pearl River Community College on their unmanned systems and workforce development programs.  

“When we employ the first graduates of Hinds or Pearl River (community colleges) to operate our unmanned boats and aircraft, that’s success for me,” Brannon said, “That’s what we’re striving for. I believe that will happen in the next two years.”