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New, expanded facilities fuel record employment in state

Please note:Information on new and expanded facilities comes from the Mississippi Development Authority’s “New and Expanded Facilities Report,” which is compiled from a variety of sources. While it is believed to be accurate, the Mississippi Development Authority has not necessarily verified the information. Data from the current year are preliminary and subject to change as additional information is received.

It would have been a noteworthy accomplishment if the State of Mississippi had set just one employment record in 2007. But the state has broken its all-time high employment level twice this year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of Mississippians employed in June 2007 was 1,160,600, a new record. Two months later, the BLS reported the number of jobholders had grown to 1,166,800, setting yet a new all-time high.

A quick glance at the Mississippi Development Authority’s (MDA’s) “New and Expanded Facilities Report, January-September 2007” tells a good portion of the story. Over that time, new and expanded facilities announced in Mississippi are expected to create an estimated 9,424 new jobs, compared to January-September 2006 when new and larger facilities were expected to create an estimated 5,736 new jobs.

Estimated new jobs are not the only figure that is up. The 2007 estimated capital investment associated with these facilities is approximately $5.29 billion, more than double the same period last year when the estimated capital investment was approximately $2.42 billion.

Driving the numbers

While both the estimated number of new jobs created and the estimated capital investment of this year’s facilities far surpasses last year, the number of facilities is actually well down. From January-September 2006, the MDA reported 368 new and expanded facilities announced. From January-September 2007, the number of facilities stood at 225.

Obviously, large projects are boosting the state’s numbers, and one doesn’t have to look farther than Blue Springs to find a “driver.” Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc. is building a mammoth automobile assembly plant in the community near Tupelo, a project that rings in at approximately $1.5 billion. And its projected creation of 2,000 new jobs gives employment figures a bulge.

Not only is the auto plant the largest facility announced in Mississippi thus far this year, it has “spun off” the state’s fifth-largest facility. In September, Toyota Auto Body Co., Ltd., announced it would build its first plant in the U.S. in Fulton to supply the Toyota plant in Blue Springs. To operate as Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi Inc., the estimated capital investment is approximately $180 million, and it is expected to create an estimated 260 new jobs.

Mega-manufacturing projects have indeed made the news so far in 2007. Other notable facilities include the new PACCAR Inc. engine assembly plant in Columbus ($348.4 million, 500 new jobs) and RTI International Metals Inc.’s new plant in Hamilton ($300 million, 200 jobs). Significant manufacturing expansions include the Rolls-Royce Outdoor Engine Testing Facility in Hancock County ($133 million), Bunge-Ergon Vicksburg, LLC ($100 million) and Howard Computers in Ellisville (1,000 new jobs).

While manufacturing has stolen headlines, the service sector is well represented on this year’s list of largest projects. The second-largest new facility is Galleria in Madison. A mixed-use development, its estimated capital investment is $900 million. And Bacaran Bay Casino Resort in Biloxi is the third-largest new facility in the state. Its estimated capital investment is approximately $600 million, and is expected to create an estimated 2,000 new jobs.

Growth areas

As far as where most new and expanded facilities are located, Hinds County continues to far outpace all others in terms of number of facilities announced. The county has snagged 66 new and expanded projects through September 2007, projects that have an estimated capital investment of more than $287 million.

Hinds County is part of the tri-county area that includes Madison and Rankin counties, and they have landed their share of facilities, as well. Rankin County reports 33 new and expanded facilities, with an estimated capital investment of approximately $194 million. Madison County has seen only 16 new and expanded projects announced; however, it is anticipating an estimated capital investment of approximately $964 million.

The coastal counties continue to see investment post-Hurricane Katrina. The counties of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties combined have seen 25 new and expanded facilities, registering an estimated capital investment of approximately $897 million.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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