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Nissan impact on state economy continues to grow

By JACK WEATHERLY

Nissan’s automotive assembly plant at Canton continues to grow as a major economic player in the immediate area and statewide, according to a new study.

Nissan’s direct and indirect contribution to the state’s gross domestic product averages $2.9 billion a year, up from $2.5 billion in a 2013 report from the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center.

Additional local and state tax revenue has reached $300 million a year, compared with $180 million in the 2013 report by the center, which is located at Mississippi State University.

Another 9,000 jobs have been added to the state since 2013, bringing the total to 25,000.

The latest data were announced Thursday at the state Capitol by the Mississippi Economic Council, which is the state chamber of commerce, and Move Mississippi Forward, which describes itself as “a community voice for economic development.”

Nissan’s opening led the state to a shift toward advanced manufacturing in the state, including Toyota, Airbus Helicopters, Steel Dynamics, PAACAR, Yokohama Tire and Continental Tire, according to a release from the MEC.

The 2013 report was on the 10thanniversary of the plant’s opening. The newest one was conducted by the center only three years later, said Scott Waller, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the MEC, because the advanced-manufacturing database needed to be updated in anticipation of a statewide study.

The Rev. Dr. Dolphus Weary, co-chairman of Move Mississippi Forward, said in the release: “The investment Mississippi made in attracting Nissan as the state’s first automotive assembly plant is paying huge dividends for our state.”

The investment came under fire when the 2013 report was issued. Funded by the United Auto Workers union, a study prepared by Good Jobs First claimed that subsidies for the assembly plant totaled $1.3 billion.

MDA said that total was far overstated. The agency this week told the Mississippi Business Journal that it provided $378 million at that time:

  • A $363 million grant for the opening of the plant in 2003.

  • $7.3 million in 2011 for Frontera and Xterra expansion in exchange for 300 jobs.

  • $7.5 million in 2012 for Sentra expansion for 1,000 jobs.

Subsequently, MDA provided grants of $14 million and $11 million toward a supplier park, including a 1 million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said in 2013 that Nissan has “consistently exceeded requirements mandated by law.”

Good Jobs responded then that “never mentioned in Pickering’s column (or in Nissan’s statement) is the fact that the audits have shown that a significant percentage of jobs created at the Nissan plant have been temporary positions that pay . . . far below the level for regular full-time workers. The temps are also denied many of the benefits received by those regular employees.”

An online ad for Kelly Services, a temp agency, seeking production technicians for the plant said that starting pay ranged from $13.46 to $14.21 an hour, “with opportunities for direct hire after 6 months [and] vacation and holiday pay and group insurance.”

Dr. Mimmo Parisi, executive director of the NSPARC, said in an interview Friday that the 6,400 jobs counted in the study do not include temp or contract workers. 

The impact of Nissan, direct and indirect, of $2.9 billion is more than 3 percent of the state’s GDP, $94.5 billion, he said, adding that if Nissan were to leave “it would put the state in a recession for two or three years.”

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