Ocean Aero bringing new high-tech jobs to South Mississippi

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:58 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s everything the Mississippi Coast economy has been aiming for, 45 new high-tech jobs, tied to existing university research, the energy industry, and defense.

Mississippi has attracted a California high-tech company to Gulfport. Ocean Aero will move from San Diego into a 67,000-square-foot warehouse on the Port of Gulfport’s east pier.

By the middle of next year, the company will be building its Autonomous Underwater and Surface Vehicles, more easily described as water drones.

“This is really what we want to be doing in economic development here on the Coast,” said Jon Nass, CEO and Executive Director of the Mississippi Port Authority. “These are great jobs attracting great minds.”

South Mississippi has been working toward developing a high-tech “blue economy” and this $4.65 million investment by Ocean Aero is another piece of the puzzle. The University of Southern Mississippi has played a key role in attracting the new business.

“This is really the result of a long collaboration between the University of Southern Mississippi, our congressional delegation and our governor to develop a high-tech corridor,” said Nass.

The presence of the USM Marine Research Center and the Center for Ocean Enterprise at the Port played a large role in attracting Ocean Aero. Company CEO Kevin Decker said they are already engaged with USM through their work with the Department of Homeland Security.

“There are currently six Ocean Aero Triton vehicles at the MRC,” said Kevin Decker, CEO of Ocean Aero. “The Marine Research Center, right there on the port that is all under USM’s jurisdiction. So working with them on that and additional projects is certainly something that we look forward to keep doing.

Decker said the proximity to defense, science and offshore energy industries was another attractive feature of Gulfport. What’s also included in that is, NOAA’s plans to establish an unmanned systems program at the port and the Naval Research Lab at Stennis Space Center.

“And so you just look around,” said Decker. “Just being near the people you want to work with makes a lot of sense to us.”

The lease is for 10 years with two 5-year options.

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