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Moon makes rounds around state during Manufacturing Week

As most folks were preparing for the Memorial Day weekend, Jay Moon was traversing the state, touting the state’s manufacturing sector. Moon, president and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA), is a constant cheerleader for the industry, but the week of May 19-23 found him working radio and television stations in a promotional campaign known as Manufacturing Week.

Manufacturing Week, proclaimed by Gov. Haley Barbour, is set aside to give manufacturers a forum to talk about the goods-making industry, good and bad. Observed annually, this year, Moon had largely good things to announce, though the industry has a few key challenges that Moon says need addressing.

“Over the last few years, manufacturers in Mississippi have done well, unlike the industry in other states,” Moon says. “We continue to have issues that present challenges to our manufacturers. But, generally the industry is doing well.”

Good times

During Manufacturing Week, Moon crisscrossed the state, appearing on television shows and making live radio broadcasts. And, he says he, and his message, were well received.

“Due to Nissan and other high-profile projects, people in Mississippi love to talk about manufacturing,” Moon said.

In addition to Nissan, Moon listed PACCAR, Eurocopter, Future Pipe and GE as other projects that have not only provided new jobs for Mississippians, but given the industry great PR.

Moon, indeed, has some impressive numbers to share. Not only are there more than 172,000 manufacturing jobs in the state, representing approximately 15% of the state’s employment, manufacturing has the highest employment multiplier of any industry. For every manufacturing job, two to three indirect jobs are created.

Mississippi manufacturers have an annual payroll of approximately $9 billion, and Mississippi ranks seventh in the nation in per capita manufacturing jobs.

It wasn’t that long ago when manufacturers were singing the blues, particularly the apparel industry. Now, the industry is much healthier. Why?

Moon says “success follows success.” Landing Fortune 100 and 500 companies, and in particular Nissan five years ago, put Mississippi on manufacturers’ map. Other positive factors listed by Moon include the diversity of the state’s manufacturers, efforts by Gov. Haley Barbour, the Mississippi Development Authority and others to work with existing manufacturers while recruiting new ones and the fact that the South is rapidly growing and Mississippi has excellent location to go along with much improved infrastructure.

Now hiring

Of course, all the news is not positive. Manufacturers are still challenged by a global economy that requires manufacturers to run lean and smart, according to Moon.

Taxes are an issue that Moon repeatedly addressed during Manufacturing Week. He is a member of the state tax study commission formed by Barbour earlier this year, and Moon says taxes are threatening all goods-producers.

Moon cites a National Association of Manufacturers report that found domestic manufacturers are paying 32% more to produce their goods compared to companies in other countries. Manufacturers’ margins are thin, and a heavy tax burden could spell job losses.

“They are competing on a global basis, and it is very difficult,” Moon says, adding that current energy costs are really hurting manufacturers in Mississippi. “I tell everybody, and the Legislature — if it get any more difficult, we may lose manufacturers. They are finding it very hard to compete.”

Moon says that the biggest challenge, however, is workforce, or the lack thereof. Manufacturers are finding it difficult to find any workers, much less skilled ones. Moon says Mississippi must reach back to the schools to ensure a pool of workers for tomorrow. Moon says he spends a lot of his time focused on workforce issues, and those efforts will continue.

Much more than those widgets

Moon says he and his MMA members realize there is a bigger picture here. It is more than just about making products — it’s about economic development.

And, Moon knows a thing or two about economic development. In fact, he is a certified economic developer and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute, where he was also an instructor in international trade and investment.

Moon has more than 20 years of experience in the field. Before joining the MMA, Moon served as deputy director/COO and director for international development with the Mississippi Development Authority, where he was the point man in the state’s efforts to land the Nissan North America automobile manufacturing plant in Canton. In addition to managing international offices in seven countries, Moon also has experience in the local, community development arena, serving five years as director of the community and economic development programs for the City of Gulfport.

Moon served on the board of the American Economic Development Council for two terms, and currently serves on the board of the International Economic Development Council.

On the state level, Moon is heavily involved, sitting on the board of the Mississippi Intermodal Council, Mississippians for Economic Progress, State Workforce Investment Council and State Workforce Investment Board, to name a few.

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

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