“We in Mississippi continue to have a larger percentage of our population employed in manufacturing than the country as a whole,” Barbour said. “One way to help our businesses innovate and stay successful is to give them world-class people to employ, whether it’s engineers or business majors or people who work on the line.”
By teaching principles of lean manufacturing, total quality management and just-in-time inventory delivery, the center will produce workers for many sectors including aerospace, electronics, technology and polymer sciences.
The center’s funding comes from the state’s $323.9 million incentive package for Toyota. The automaker is building a $1.3 billion plant in Blue Springs, about 50 miles from Oxford. Toyota reset the opening of the plant from early 2010 to May 2010 for economic and model-changeover reasons.
The center will offer four bachelor’s degree programs, two business-related and two engineering-related, all with a manufacturing emphasis. Barbour and Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat will appoint a board to create a curriculum and oversee the center.
“We have completed the building drawings and expect to be receiving bids shortly. I would hope that construction would begin this fall,” Khayat said.
He said he expects 20 to 40 students the first year, with enrollment increasing dramatically in the following years. Most of the initial students likely will switch their majors from engineering or business. The interdisciplinary program will include cooperatives and externships.
“We’re going to see an interesting marriage between engineering and business. We think it will be a model for the future of manufacturing,” Khayat said.