AROUND THE DELTA — An Aug. 3 meeting among members of the Delta Council, Nissan officials, the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), business owners and members of various academic institutions, including Delta State University and Mississippi Valley State University, yielded hope for the Mississippi Delta in attracting Nissan suppliers.
Daniel Vassel, business and industry outreach coordinator for the Delta Council, said his organization is coordinating its efforts through U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) office to attract various suppliers to the region. Already, MDA officials have visited the Delta to look at potential sites for supplier locations.
“We’re just trying to highlight the attributes of the Mississippi Delta, especially the available buildings we have, the available workforce we have and the ability to train any individual to any specific job,” Vassel said.
Vassel said one of the things the Delta has to offer suppliers is a great geographical location.
“I think the proximity first to the Mississippi River and then to metro areas such as Jackson and Vicksburg makes our area very attractive,” he said. “Secondly, the caliber of our workforce. We’ve been fortunate to have world class companies locate in the Delta — Viking Range, for one. People in the Delta are hardworking people and we have the ability to train those individuals, which would be a third point.”
In fact, the Delta Center for Manufacturing Technology in Indianola was built specifically to custom train individuals for jobs.
Barthell Joseph, Jr., a Delta Council board member and chairman of the Washington County Industrial Foundation who also serves on the Washington County Convention and Visitors Committee, said the Aug. 3 preliminary meeting was promising.
“I think it was certainly well timed,” Joseph said. “I didn’t think the Nissan folks had thought of Mississippi regionally and Rep. (Charlie) Capps (D-Cleveland) and (legislative assistant in Sen. Thad Cochran’s office Brad) Pruitt did a great job of introducing them to the Delta and to the benefits and the needs and opportunities that exist here.”
Joseph said the Delta region is trying to draw Nissan’s Tier II and Tier III suppliers.
“Those would be the companies we’d like to have come visit with us,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping for. We haven’t heard anything.”
Joseph said Nissan officials who attended the meeting indicated suppliers would be “in a hurry” to find a place to locate so, he said, “we are optimistic.”
“We’ve got so many things going for us,” he said.
One thing on the Delta’s side is the Mississippi Growth and Prosperity Act, also known as GAP. Another is the Rural Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities Initiative which was launched by the Clinton administration in 1994 to create jobs and business opportunities in economically distressed areas of rural America. And there are other incentives for Nissan suppliers to move to the Delta as well.
“I can’t think of any incentives that are missing,” Joseph said. “We’ve got plenty of training money through the Workforce Investment Act. We’re ready to go.”
When asked whether suppliers would likely locate to the Delta, Jerry Palmer, a consultant with the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association, said he thought it was a distinct possibility.
“At least one has announced for Vicksburg, one to Meridian, and by the time you get from Meridian to Canton it’s about 100 miles and it’s about that far to the Delta,” he said.
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.