Mississippi’s thriving automotive industry gave the state a boost in employment during January, according to a monthly survey of manufacturing activity in the southeastern states.
The Southeast Purchasing Managers Index released by Kennesaw State University reported increased employment and finished inventory in the state. The survey also found that commodity prices increased in January.
Overall, the survey findings represent “very good news” for the state, said Jay Moon, president of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association.
“One of the sectors of manufacturing the Kennesaw State report would be reflecting on is the automotive industry and its increased presence in the Southeast,” Moon said. “If you look at the Southeast as a region, it is one of the fastest-growing regions not only in population but also business development.”
Moon called the burgeoning auto industry across the Southeast “the biggest concentration of international auto and truck manufacturing facilities” in the country.
In Mississippi, Nissan is increasing production at its Canton plant and hiring additional workers, Moon said. The automaker also is in the process of adding a new supplier park adjacent to its facility.
Toyota has been in production in Blue Springs for about a year and is seeing increased demand for its vehicles. “They are doing very well in the northern part of the state,” Moon said.
Auto suppliers also are locating in the area to supply the big manufacturers, and that adds to the employment base.
Moon said the Yokohama Tire facility in West Point will have 2,000 employees when it is fully operational. The new commercial truck tire manufacturing plant is expected to open in October 2015 and produce one million tires a year. “It is part of the overall growing automotive and automotive-related industry we see here in the Southeast,” he said. “Yokohama is locating right in the heart of the Southeast auto corridor so they can spoke out and hit all the major manufacturers.”
Besides automotive, Moon said there are other areas of business expansion in the state. “We have seen continued expansion in the specialty metal fabrication area, some improvement in aerospace production and in shipbuilding,” he said.
Such variety in manufacturing prevents dependency on one sector. “We have broad based manufacturing that is not too top heavy” in one area, he said.
Advanced manufacturing requires a well trained workforce with special skill sets to meet demand. “All across the region we are putting a lot of emphasis on workforce development,” Moon said. Industrial technicians, welders and other workers in the advanced manufacturing field have to have a higher skill level than ever before.
Workers trained in auto manufacturing can use their skills in other industries. “Once you get a skill set, that can attract other kinds of businesses in the area,” he said.
The unprecedented winter storms this year might also get manufacturers to consider moving South, where conditions haven’t been as bad. “This winter has really hammered the Midwest and other parts of the U.S. and had an impact on production,” Moon said.
The Southeast is attractive to manufacturers for several reasons, Moon said. “Workforce, location and infrastructure are creating very good opportunities for either domestic business to expand or relocate and international business to expand or come to the U.S. market, and Mississippi is a strong part of that attraction.”