Mississippi State University’s Franklin Furniture Institute is not closing, but will reorganize, the university said today.
On Thursday, the institute’s former director said the center would close because of budget cuts, but university officials said Friday that wasn’t the case.
Rather, MSU stated in a press release it was “reaffirming its strong commitment to the state’s furniture manufacturing industry by continuing to provide testing and research while broadening its focus to enhance innovation and technology.”
Gregory A. Bohach, MSU’s vice president for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine, said the center will continue its mission to enhance the state’s $7 billion furniture industry, and also will adopt a new name to better identify with its new emphasis: the Franklin Innovation Center.
The College of Business’ acclaimed Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach will work closely with the Franklin Innovation Center to build stronger ties between students and furniture-related curriculums, officials said.
MSU also emphasized that Franklin’s “ongoing program of testing, research and extension/outreach will not be changed as the university launches the reorganization process.”
Bohach said MSU will continue as it has done for more than 30 years to support the state’s furniture industry with furniture testing, fundamental and applied furniture-related research, technical assistance to the industry, graduate and undergraduate education and training and industry-driven specialized programming and activities.
When the FFI opened more than 13 years ago, it was the culmination of more than two years of work. It had formerly been the Institute for Furniture Manufacturing and Management, and it was billed as a multi-disciplinary effort involving Mississippi State’s colleges of Business; Engineering, Forest Resources; and Architecture, Art and Design.
Its formal mission is, “To help sustain and increase the competitiveness of the furniture and related industries in Mississippi and beyond.”
Its vision is, “To be a nationally recognized center of knowledge and outreach to the furniture and home furnishings industry.”
Hassell Franklin, and MSU alumnus and the founder and CEO of furniture manufacturing company Franklin Corp. in Houston, donated more than $1 million toward the center.
In a statement, MSU President Mark Keenum said the university’s commitment to the furniture industry “remains strong and unwavering. As we move into our fourth decade of support for this vibrant Mississippi industry, both MSU and our furniture industry partners are mindful of the need to bring innovation, cutting-edge technologies, and a fresh vision to how the industry will grow and thrive in the future.”
The Mississippi furniture industry employs more than 48,000 people directly and indirectly, generating a $2 billion annual payroll. The vast majority of the industry is based in Northeast Mississippi.