The star of manufacturing continues to rise in Mississippi. Recent announcements of internationally recognized companies building facilities in the state, along with expansions of existing plants, are leading the recovery of this economic sector.
“No doubt about it, we’re having a good year and it’s getting progressively better,” said Jay Moon, executive director of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association. “Like other states, we had closures in the 1990s and lost jobs. Now, a lot of companies are expanding and adding employees, and we have world-class companies coming in. We have tremendous new business and these are household names.”
Some of those high-profile names include Toyota, Peterbilt, GE, Rolls Royce, EuroCopter, SeverCorr and Nissan. Owned by parent company PACCAR, Peterbilt will manufacture truck engines in Columbus. Also new to the state, GE will have a facility in
Batesville that makes high-tech fan blades for jet engines. Moon said these manufacturers will do a great deal to expand Mississippi’s aerospace industry.
“We are seeing a different type of jobs in the state,” he said. “The jobs are much more highly skilled. These are cutting-edge companies all the way around — in manufacturing systems, logistics and connection with their consumers’ demands. We have to do some training, but we can meet their needs.”
Moon said the EuroCopter expansion is significant; more of an addition than an expansion and will provide better jobs. Through a contractual agreement with the U.S. Army, the Golden Triangle facility will now build helicopters from the ground up rather than merely customizing them after they are made elsewhere.
Signs of success
Others agree with Moon that the caliber of company names coming to the state is a sign of success for economic development. Angie Godwin, executive director of the Area Development Partnership in Hattiesburg, said the negative stereotypical image of the state is being chiseled away by persistence, hard work and professionalism.
“The way our state is performing, the way we acted after Katrina and other ways are changing our image,” she said. “Companies like Bearing Point, a globally-recognized company that is locating in Hattiesburg, do a lot to build the state’s image.”
David Rumbarger of Tupelo said this success will lead to more success. “I’ve been in three national meetings since the Toyota announcement and people are somewhat shocked. ‘Why Mississippi?’ they ask. That gives us a great opportunity to tell about the things we have here,” he said.
Moon said new plants are coming to the state due to several factors. “The U.S. economy is still strong and is the most desirable in the world today. Also, we are marketing the state in a very good way,” he said. “The governor and local communities are doing a good job of that. We have a strategic location and an excellent transportation system that is working together to move products.”
Mississippi is also taking advantage of the growing global economy. “It’s a seamless market and will become more transparent,” he said. “We’re producing world-class goods here. Our growth is in long-term industries. We are seeing emerging markets and global competition will only get tougher.”
With new facilities and global markets, Moon says the state’s workforce must be retrained continuously. Because Mississippi can serve the huge companies now locating here, Moon believes other companies will decide the state can help their business, too.
“Then when companies get here and do so well, it produces other opportunities down the line,” he said. “For instance, SeverCorr is coming because of the automotive industry.”
Moon said the state is part of the re-building of industrialization and increasing population in the Southeast where new factories and expansions are creating more jobs. “Companies that have been here are growing too and finding new opportunities,” he said.
The furniture industry, a long-time stalwart of the state’s manufacturing sector, is under stress now due to competition from China, Moon said.
“It’s a vertical growth industry; meaning we grow the trees here and make the furniture here,” he said. “It’s an important industry to our state and we must protect it. China pays no duties and is heavily subsidized by their government. We want the competition to be fair.”
Still, in general the association director says manufacturing is moving in the right direction and the state is in a great position at this time.
The MMA has 2,200 member companies representing a diverse range of products that run the gamut from automobiles to ships.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.