Mississippi once was an untamed frontier whose location was cherished by a succession of world powers. Today,Mississippi is again in demand — and for similar reasons.
From its strategic location at the “center of the Americas,” Mississippi is poised to shape the future of international commerce throughout the world. We at the Department of Economic and Community Development believe the future can be prosperous and are working to make it so.
We are taking these steps for two basic reasons:
• Mississippi`s appeal has grown to the point where 70 parent companies from 17 countries operate more than 100 Mississippi affiliates. That gives us something of a window on the world in terms of investment opportunities.
• In order to grow and prosper in the global economy, Mississippi companies need to export their own products and services to international markets. Attention to the trade segment is doing just that.
Foreign investment plays an increasingly valuable role in the economic development of Mississippi and other states in the Southeast. Studies indicate that the significance of foreign investment will continue to grow in the region as Mississippi and other states try to remain competitive in a marketplace that is global in scope rather than regional or national.
Direct investment in the Southeast of foreign-owned companies will be complemented by the emergence of viable and even dynamic new markets in Asia, Eastern, Europe and Latin America. Both manufacturing and service-oriented industries are becoming more global, so firms are being forced to refocus their activities on the arena of international business.
The development of strong new markets throughout the world comprises several components. First, the U.S. has experienced significant economic expansion in the last several years, generating in turn a more dynamic environment in which foreign firms can invest. In addition, the vitality of other economies, particularly those of the United Kingdom and Canada, has led to increased earnings by companies and a greater ability to invest internationally.
Borrowing conditions have also improved in the U.S. and a decline in long-term interest rates means that U.S. investments look very attractive to foreign-owned firms.
Mississippi likewise has an attractive business climate, so designated by the most recent survey of the Whirlpool Corporation in naming Mississippi`s business climate the best among 23 states with major home appliance manufacturing facilities. Low business costs, incentives and other factors make us an appealing site for foreign companies considering expansion.
The proximity to key markets is a crucial factor. That`s why our international marketing plan emphasizes existing industry, infrastructure and other resources.
We have chosen to market Mississippi as the “Center of the Americas,” a major advantage among companies doing business anywhere in North America and South America. With our water, air and land transportation and distribution systems, Mississippi`s location offers easy access to markets and suppliers.
And, since alliances are the cutting edge of international competitiveness, we have developed a program which facilitates the match-making process among suitable companies. Few states think in terms of alliances when developing their investment and trade programs. Our program assists foreign companies in entering the U.S. market as well as Mississippi companies in reaching more overseas markets. The alliance program is helping Mississippi reach beyond the traditional trade and investmentconcept to embrace a worldwide economic concept that will strengthen our economy.
So, in some ways, the Mississippi frontier still exists, even though its dimensions have changed. The fact is that we still have the opportunity to shape the history of international commerce throughout the Americas, as long as we approach the ever-changing international marketplace with new ideas and innovation.
Jay C. Moon is director of the International Development Division in the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development.