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Harvard visitors to take look at region's economic triumphs


Joe Max Higgins

Joe Max Higgins


Jan Rivkin

Jan Rivkin



Alex Holloway



Some unusual visitors will come to learn the story of the Golden Triangle's economic success this week. 


Twenty Harvard Business School faculty members, led by Senior Associate Dean for Research Jan Rivkin, will visit the region to meet with local government leaders and officials with the Golden Triangle Development LINK. 


Rivkin, speaking with The Dispatch, said he learned about the Golden Triangle from James Fallows' features about the region in The Atlantic, and more recently a CBS "60 Minutes" segment on LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins. 


He said the faculty started a project, which he co-chairs, on U.S. competitiveness in 2011. 


"Our motivation there was that we, as a faculty, had spent a lot of time looking at the world and had a sense that we perhaps were not paying enough attention to the U.S., and that there were structural changes in the economy here that every business leader should know about," Rivkin said. 


Rivkin said the faculty had concerns that the United States' economy was only doing "half its job," which is to say large companies are thriving, while working class Americans and small businesses struggle. 


"The Golden Triangle -- I read from a distance that here was a community where people were coming together to build a future for the community," Rivkin said. 


The Harvard Business School faculty will arrive on Monday. During their time in the Golden Triangle, they'll meet with LINK representatives and government leaders from Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties. They'll also tour East Mississippi Community College's Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Mississippi State University's National Strategic Planning and Research Center, Steel Dynamics and PACCAR. 


"We're looking forward to sharing our part of the world with such a prestigious group," Higgins said. "We see this as another opportunity to shed positive light on our region and our state. We've got a lot of great stuff happening in the Golden Triangle." 


Since June 2016, HBS faculty have taken fact-finding trips to Munich, Germany, New York City, Boston and southeast Asia. Rivkin said they also have a trip to the San Francisco Bay area planned for November. 


Rivkin said regional attitudes and personalities vary, but there are some parallels to draw. 


"In some sense, the focus in the Golden Triangle on manufacturing reminds me of the focus on manufacturing you see in the Munich region of Germany," he said. "Boston looks a lot like the Bay area in many ways, with knowledge-intensive industries and focus on new technologies. 


"There can be tremendous variation," he added. "No two places are the same, no two people are the same and you can learn a lot from them." 


Rivkin said the HBS faculty will come to the region with open eyes and open minds. They may craft a case study, he said, which business students can use, or they may delve deeper into issues that come to their attention during the trip. 


"It's always hard to know before you go to a place what you'll learn," Rivkin said. "The thing that most fascinates me is the coordination that appears to be taking place, between government, businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions. 


"It's interesting, actually -- looking around the country, it's easy to focus on our divisions," he added. "But when you look at localities, there's a lot of progress being made by cross-sector collaboration. ... In those cases we see a tremendous unity and progress in the country. From the outside, it looks like the Golden Triangle is a prime example of that."




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