...To most people from the outside, the area's economy is most closely
associated with tourism. New Orleans, home of Mardi Gras and Bourbon
Street, remains one of the nation's favorite destinations. Since the early
1990s South Mississippi has benefited from the presence of casinos. The
    beaches of Northwest
    Florida for years have
    attracted visitors.
    ...But beyond tourism, the
    region's traditional
    economic pillars have
    been offshore work,
    chemicals, shipbuilding
    and the military. What's
    less well known is the
    research that has been
    conducted in the region.
    ...The Central Gulf Coast
    is home to 150 federal and
university research units involved in everything from artificial intelligence
to stem cell research. Most of the federal research is conducted by
Department of Defense, but a considerable amount is spent on space-
related R&D by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
...Thirteen universities with interests in the region spent $851.2 million in
fiscal year 2006 on R&D, with industry providing $33.7 million,
according to the National Science Foundation. The region’s innovation
infrastructure also includes science and technology parks, technology
transfer offices, incubators and more.

...It is not possible to talk about the economy of the region without
talking about the military, which has a huge and ongoing impact on the
region. Bases range from the huge Eglin Air Force Base complex in
Florida to smaller bases, like the Seabee facility in Gulfport. It's also
home to a range of outlying fields that dot the region.
...While the military has operational combat units as well as test and
evaluation operations, one of the more significant activities is the role is
in the field of education, most notably in applied technology/technical
training. Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., has the largest technical
training wing in the Air Force. That, combined with the technical
training done by the Navy at Pensacola and Milton, gives the Central
Gulf Coast a technological bent that is not widely known.

...Within this broad research umbrella are at least five research-backed
clusters - aerospace, shipbuilding, advanced materials, geospatial and
marine science. Some have attracted and support a network of associated
businesses and applications, while others are still developing but have a
huge potential. Perhaps more important, the clusters in the region have a
high degree of synergy and crossover.
...While that’s important in a number of fields, it’s essential for the nation’
s defense-related activities. Systems integration and the formation of a
network-centric fighting force forms the foundation of the Defense
Department’s vision of tomorrow’s battlefield. An area that has activities
in multiple areas of that mix – including the room for testing – stands to
...Over the years the corridor’s clusters have become home to operating
units of some of the biggest names in industry. Northrop Grumman
alone has two dozen operations in the region, while Lockheed Martin,
Raytheon, United Technologies, Boeing, Computer Sciences Corp.,
Science Applications International Corp. – a who’s who of corporate
America – all have multiple operations. Significant for this region is that
those are the corporations that are creating the nation’s next generation
fighting force.

Next: Part II The corridor
Part I (cont.): Gulf Coast region
Primary cities