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MDA’s Christensen forecasts economic growth momentum continuing in 2015

Mississippi Development Association director Brent Christensen.

Mississippi Development Authority director Brent Christensen.

Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Brent Christensen foresees 2015 being a year when the state builds upon the strengthening economic activity of both the state and the nation in the past year.

“As the national economy continues to rebound and strengthen, that momentum will continue to carry over,” Christensen said. “Companies are increasingly seeking new locations to expand as a result of the economy’s resurgence, and we will work just as hard in 2015 to capitalize upon that momentum to create jobs for Mississippi’s residents and strengthen communities throughout our state.”

MDA expects the state to reap the rewards of several large projects that begin production in 2015. One if the Yokohama Tire Corporation commercial truck tire plant in West Point, representing a $300 million investment that is expected to create 500 jobs in its initial phase.

“While the company has potential future plans to increase its investment to more $1 billion and 2,000 jobs, the positive impact the initial phase of the facility will have on the local and regional economies will be tremendous,” Christensen said. “The Golden Triangle Region’s economy has seen significant improvement throughout the facility’s construction phase thus far, and the addition of these 500 jobs will contribute greatly to the area’s regional economy for years to come.”

Another new company that will begin operations in 2015 is German-owned ISA TanTec. The company is locating its first U.S. tannery operations in Vicksburg, creating 366 jobs. Christensen said ISA TanTec is recognized by the world’s top footwear brands as a supplier of premium quality leathers. Another project slated to come online in 2015 is McDermott International, which plans to locate its pipeline operations at the Port of Gulfport. This project is expected to create 100 full-time jobs, in addition to the longshoremen who will be employed while vessels are at port. McDermott represents the first major jobs announcement of the Port of Gulfport Restoration Project.

“These are just three examples of companies planning to begin operations in 2015,” Christensen said. “The past few years we have welcomed many new business investments that have created — and are still creating —thousands of jobs for the residents of Mississippi. This continued economic growth will benefit the communities in which these companies are located and help strengthen the state’s economy as a whole.”

The MDA has targeted seven industries in the state for growth: advanced manufacturing, aerospace, agribusiness, automotive, energy, healthcare and shipbuilding sectors.

“It’s no secret that Mississippi’s automotive industry continues to be a powerhouse within the state, as well as the Southern Automotive Corridor, which is exceptional considering the industry was non-existent in Mississippi just over a decade ago,” Christensen said. “Companies like Nissan and Toyota and all the automotive suppliers in the state continue to put us on a global stage as they expand and locate to Mississippi. Nissan’s Canton plant just began production of the Murano, which is now the eighth model produced at the facility.

“The decision by Nissan to bring the Murano to Canton positions the facility as the global source for Murano production, creating export opportunities in more than 100 markets and shifting the plant from a domestic manufacturer to a global one. As long as these companies continue helping us demonstrate to the world that we have the solid infrastructure and productive workforce to support automotive companies, the industry will continue to grow.”

Mississippi is also home to aerospace companies such as Rolls-Royce, Raytheon, SpaceX, GE Aviation, Airbus Group, Northrop Grumman, Aurora Flight Sciences, and Stark Aerospace. A major asset in that area for Mississippi has been the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County

“We have always had a stable aerospace industry, and moving forward, we will continue focusing on expanding it and creating advanced jobs in this important sector,” Christensen said. “The shipbuilding industry is also poised for growth on the Gulf Coast. Shipbuilding is a prime contributor to the region’s overall economy. Recognizing that, we are focused on increasing capacity in the sector as we look to the future of economic development in South Mississippi. Mississippi has the ideal infrastructure in place for companies in this sector, and we will continue to market our advantages to further grow the industry.”

He also wants to keep priming the pump for tourism growth. There are teams in place at the state, regional and local levels who are dedicated to promoting tourism in Mississippi and attracting even more visitors from around the country and around the world.

“Mississippi is full of creative and cultural offerings that drive the industry, and in FY 2013, we welcomed 21.6 million visitors who spent $6.25 billion while they were in our state,” Christensen said. “Obviously, Mississippi’s tourism industry is a major player in our economy, and we are hoping for even more resources to be allotted to us so we can market Mississippi to an even wider range of audiences. The film industry in Mississippi has also surged over the past year, and looking forward, I see no signs of it slowing down.”

Sixteen feature length films were filmed in Mississippi in 2014, a record number for a single year. Get on Up, the James Brown biopic directed by Mississippi native Tate Taylor, was released this year after being filmed in Natchez and Jackson.

“The movie once again made Mississippi shine on the big screen, and Hollywood took notice,” Christensen said. “Numerous big screen films have been or are currently being shot in the state, as long as we keep providing incentives and a workforce that is ready to take on the tasks required, they will keep coming. When you have high profile stars such as Mick Jagger and Dan Aykroyd telling their friends and the world how wonderful Mississippi is, people are going to listen.”

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