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First Nissan supplier opens facility in Vicksburg

VICKSBURG — Grand opening ceremonies were held in October for the first Nissan supplier to open in the State of Mississippi. Calsonic Kensai Mississippi plans to employ about 400 people in their 140,000-square-foot facility in Vicksburg that will produce supplies for the Nissan manufacturing facility in Canton.

“Calsonic’s confidence in Mississippi and our work force sends a strong signal to business and industry that Mississippi is a global competitor for jobs,” says Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. “By making dramatic changes in our economic strategy and by partnering with companies such as Calsonic, Mississippi is building a strong foundation for our future.”

Robert J. Rohrlack Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said Calsonic will bring high quality jobs to the area.

“We are thrilled to have them as one of our newest corporate citizens,” Rohrlack said. “A key to our continued economic success is the pro-business environment that we are creating in Mississippi. We are focused on job creation and job retention, and we will continue to build successful public-private partnerships that will benefit companies, communities and citizens.”

Calsonic is already planning to expand in the future, says Jimmy Heidel, executive director of the Vicksburg-Warren County Economic Development Foundation. Future plans call for adding another 70,000 square feet to their facility. The facility will produce exhaust systems, radiators and cooling components for Nissan sport utility vehicles that will be manufactured in Canton. Nissan plans in the future to also produce the Altima in Canton. Calsonic will produce cockpits for the Altima.

Calsonic also has a 20,000-square-foot facility in Canton for warehouse and distribution, and plans to employ 10 people there.

Another Nissan supplier, Yorozu Automotive Mississippi, Inc. is also locating in Vicksburg. Yorozu plans to open in April or May of 2003 producing suspension systems for Nissan.

“They have also said they may have to expand because of Altima,” Heidel said. “All in all Vicksburg is a very good location for these supplier companies. We’re just delighted to have them in our community. We are working very closely with them.”

Both facilities are located at the industrial park off Interstate 20, which is only a 45-minute drive from the Canton manufacturing plant. Heidel said it wasn’t necessary for these suppliers’ manufacturing facilities to be located on site.

“They felt if they were a little farther away, they would have less competition for the skilled labor force,” Heidel said.

The suppliers are required to deliver products or component parts within 45 minutes to an hour. That is the “just-in-time” concept for manufacturing that has advantages for the automaker, who doesn’t have to keep a lot of inventory on site.

In addition to I-20, there is another access road to Canton, Highway 22. “If something happened on the interstate, they could still cut through to Canton on Highway 22,” Heidel said. “We’re starting to talk to different legislators and the Mississippi Department of Transportation about the possibility in the future of four-laning Highway 22. We are in the very preliminary stages, but we’re talking about it.”

Nissan suppliers like the Vicksburg location near 1-20 because it also gives them the possibility of serving General Motors in Shreveport and Mercedes, Honda and other automakers in Alabama.

“The 1-20 Corridor is excellent for transportation,” Heidel said. “We’ve got about three or four more suppliers who are looking at the area.”

The new Yorozu plant will be very advanced technologically using robotics to manufacture products. The company manufactures its own robotic equipment in Japan.

“They are probably more advanced than most of what you see in the U.S.,” Heidel said. “They are going to put one of the robots in the Hinds Community College branch out here for training. I think that is going to be a very positive situation. The existing industries around here think Hinds does a great job on training.”

Yorozu will donate a welding robot and transfer its knowledge and experience through this program displaying the company’s strong commitment to the local community, said Junko Fukuma, human resources administratortranslator for Yorozu Automotive Mississippi.

Fukuma said that Yorozu reached a conclusion that Vicksburg was the best location for the company’s fourth plant in North America because it is strategically ideal for a Tier 1 automotive parts manufacturer in the growing automotive industry in the South. She said the site is close to customers and suppliers, and there was great support from the local community.

Currently equipment installation is taking place in the plant with a combined effort of American associates and Japanese engineers who provide support during the initial start up period. The installation of the electrocoating system, 19 welding robots, quality measurement devices, bush press machines, EDI system and other equipment have been completed since July 2002. Additional machines, equipment and 82 welding robots are to arrive in December 2002.

Yorozu currently has eight associates on board. Hiring is on schedule with Yorozu now seeking candidates for manufacturing manager, quality assurance and production operators.

Yorozu Automotive Mississippi Inc. will hold grand opening ceremonies in March 2003 with production expected to begin in April 2003.Yorozu Automotive Mississippi is an affiliate of Yorozu Corporation , Yokohama, Japan, one of the world leaders in Tier 1 automotive suspension and metal components.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

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