eridian — Even though Lauderdale County didn’t land a proposed Kia automotive assembly plant (the company chose a site in Georgia), there’s plenty of other big news in Meridian.
Tower Automotive recently began a massive renovation project involving the 310,000-square-foot Delco Remy building in Lauderdale County. When completed, the 400,000-square-foot stamping and assembly operation will serve Nissan and other automotive assembly plants.
The East Mississippi Business Development Corporation (EMBDC) recently recruited Clutch Pioneer, an aftermarket clutch distribution center, to Meridian.
Economic developers have also been working with the Teikuro Corporation, a Japanese automotive supplier that provides die maintenance service, chrome plating and die repair exclusively for Toyota Corporation and Toyota suppliers from San Antonio, Texas, to Spartanburg, S.C.
Land has been acquired for the project, and when the $140-million, 35,000-square-foot building is completed and the facility is operational with 140 employees, it will represent the first facility of its kind in the Southeast to service the stamping operations of the automotive industry.
Other than automotive, the EMBDC also has prospects in three targeted industries: aerospace, warehouse distribution and wood products, and is pursuing food-processing operations, said EMBDC president Wade Jones.
And an announcement is imminent on other projects that local officials cannot yet publicly discuss.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that Kia didn’t locate here, but it was a good experience and we gained national exposure for what we know is a qualified megasite located in the I-20 automotive corridor between Nissan, Mercedes, Hyundai and their respective suppliers,” said Jones. “The megasite is ripe for development. Not only is it served by two interstates, with the prospects of an additional interstate in our future, but more importantly, Norfolk Southern has committed $300 million to improving the Kansas City Southern line west of here to Shreveport, La., that we call The Meridian Speedway, which will make the site even more attractive.”
Recognized as the “strategic center of the South” by Chicago Consulting at the 2003 Council of Logistics annual meeting, Meridian and Lauderdale County are the preferred southeastern location for management distribution in North America.
Jones pointed out the results of $450,000 in engineering work done to the megasite have proven “there’s no expansive material on site. It’s not subject to flooding. It’s very attractive. And even though it sits on the state line, it has the support of both governors.”
When Kia executives flew over Meridian, they reportedly expressed concerns about the lack of housetops possibly indicating an insufficient workforce, yet 1.4 million people are located within 100 miles of Meridian, compared to 1.6 million people located within 100 miles of Nissan-Canton, said Jones.
“In the rural South, a large portion of the workforce commutes 30 minutes to an hour daily and sometimes it’s difficult for those outside the region to understand,” he said. “Folks living in the rural South have values and principles that are beneficial to employers, such as wonderful work ethics and family values. That means lower turnover and less absenteeism.”
For workforce training and development, the EMBDC continues to collaborate with six community colleges — Shelton State in Tuscaloosa, Alabama Southern, East Central Mississippi Community College, East Mississippi Community College, Meridian Community College and Jones County Junior College.
“Our new 643-acre Meridian I-20/I-59 industrial park, located on U.S. Highways 11 and 80 in Meridian, is coming along well,” said Jones. “We have sites ready to go, and we’ll be doing site work there this spring before we develop supplier parks.
“The same thing that originally drew Kia to Meridian exists today: our location, our transportation logistics, our quality of life, our workforce.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.