MSU CAVS Extension wins MEDC award

STARKVILLE, Miss.–Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension office took home a top honor from the Mississippi Economic Development Council’s (MEDC) winter conference in Jackson earlier this month. The MSU center based in Canton was the winner of the Community Economic Development Award for its work with Nissan at its auto assembly plant in central Mississippi.

Photo: Mississippi State University’s Clay Walden (second from left) and Robert Sheely (third from left) accept the Community Economic Development Award from Mississippi Economic Development Council board president Tom Troxler, executive director of the Rankin First Economic Development Authority (left), and MEDC executive director Carol Hardwick (right). 

“MEDC is proud to honor this outstanding community and the people who have been involved in the planning and implementation of this worthwhile project,” said executive director Carol Hardwick. “We applaud their commitment to excellence in moving their communities forward.”

The winning project, officially titled the “Enhancing On-the-Job Problem Solving” training program, is an example of Mississippi State’s commitment to service, said Clay Walden, director of CAVS Extension and a research professor at the land-grant institution.

“CAVS Extension and the university as a whole are actively engaged in the lives of Mississippians,” he said. “This recent work with Nissan is a perfect example of the assistance we can provide, as well as the partnerships we develop with employers in the state.”

Walden accepted the award at the conference, and was joined by CAVS Extension business systems and information technology manager Robert Sheely, who nominated the project for the MEDC recognition.
The training program developed and delivered by CAVS Extension, Holmes Community College and MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering provided skills training for more than 400 employees at Nissan’s Canton facility, its in-state suppliers and related high-growth companies.

As the program began, an initial analysis revealed that 5.8% of Mississippi’s automotive workers possessed higher ordered skills–a rate falling well short of the 10.5% national average. To help overcome the gap, the coalition taught workers using a three-prong curriculum: instrumentation and diagnostics, problem-solving methodologies and teaming topics.

Bagley faculty and researchers trained students to use specialized data-gathering equipment and analysis software. CAVS Extension provided specialized problem-solving training and spawned projects, with ongoing coaching, to solve chronic “live, on-the-job” problems from students’ companies. Holmes enhanced students’ communication, leadership and collaboration skills.

“The initiative was well received by Nissan and its suppliers, and has improved the problem-solving skills throughout the automotive industry,” said Bob Mullins, Nissan senior training manager.

The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) had stakeholder oversight of the 15-month project, which was competitively funded by a $660,000 federal stimulus grant administered by MDES.

To date more than 60% of the students who completed training have received a wage increase. In a three-year period, over 59 projects have been accomplished with resulting savings of $2,019,000 a year, representing an 8:1 return on the initial investment.

“This project was the best use of stimulus funds of any project I am aware of in the nation,” said MDES executive director Les Range.

The project will be submitted to the Southern Economic Development Council for regional competition.

“As the state’s economy grows and diversifies, our researchers and resources are playing vital roles. Working to meet the needs of business and industry is a clearly-defined priority of the university, and we are proud of the excellent work being done by the CAVS Extension team,” said David Shaw, Mississippi State’s vice president for research and economic development.

For additional information about MSU CAVS Extension, which is a major component of the Bagley College of Engineering Engagement and Outreach Service, please visit
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