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Food & Fiber Center helps small businesses
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippians have great ideas for innovative products, and Mississippi State University helps make those business dreams a reality.
From manufacturers of hair bows and goat milk soap to billion-dollar furniture manufacturers, no job is too small -- or too big -- for the experts at MSU's Food & Fiber Center.
"Specialists of the Food & Fiber Center are actively engaged in solving real world problems of existing companies and individual entrepreneurs," said Virgil Culver, Extension Service leader of the Center. "Projects range from an individual coming in for a consultation about an idea to well-established companies with plans for multi-million dollar projects."
The Food & Fiber Center works with businesses and manufacturers in the food and other agriculture-related industries. The Center also offers training programs and conferences that deal with a wide range of topics relevant to business owners.
The Center was established in 1974 to add value to the state's agricultural, aquacultural, forest and marine resources through improvements in processing and marketing. Over the years that mission has shifted to providing technical assistance and service for a broad range of client needs throughout the state.
The Center's staff is a multi-disciplinary team of experts in the fields of industrial engineering, management, marketing and distribution, food technology, small business development and economics.
Small Business Basics workshops give tips for starting a small business, evaluating the market potential for new products and services, keeping records for tax purposes, writing a business plan, and branching out into electronic commerce.
Other workshops help small business owners with specific issues like starting a food or catering business; properly handling meat, poultry and fish products; and developing business and planning skills. The Center also hosts several conferences each year that provide valuable information to all manufacturers.
"We help food processors with various business-related issues such as new product development, equipment identification and assistance with e-commerce," Culver said. "We also encourage networking among specialty food manufacturers, which helps new companies learn from companies with many years of experience."
The Center also helps existing businesses make operating changes. For example, one-on-one consultation and assistance is available for businesses that want to implement lean manufacturing techniques. A lean manufacturing conference gives manufacturers an idea of the benefits of adopting lean practices, then helps them evaluate those benefits.
"The Food & Fiber Center developed a lean manufacturing simulation tool to demonstrate the benefits of implementing lean practices in manufacturing operations," said Duane Motsenbocker, Extension management specialist. "This tool broadened the awareness of lean techniques, which result in increased productivity, lower manufacturing costs and a focus on customer needs."
The Center offers individual technical assistance and promotion of Mississippi's food industry via a Web site that features a complete online listing of specialty foods produced or packaged in Mississippi at http://ext.msstate.edu/departments/foodandfiber/specialty/productsguide2.pdf.
For additional information on MSU Extension's Food & Fiber Center and its services, visit the above Web site or telephone (662) 325-2160.