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Nissan bond bill clears Senate, heads to House

March 27th, 2013 No comments

The Senate passed with little debate Wednesday a bill that would authorize the Madison County Economic Development Authority to issue up to $100 million in bonds for an expansion of the Nissan plant in Canton.

The bonds would not be general obligation, but would be classified as revenue-only. Nissan would service the bonds via lease payments for the buildings. Neither the state nor Madison County would be on the hook should that fail to happen, said Sen. Will Longwitz, R-Madison, the bill’s principal author.

Longwitz said on the floor of the Senate last week that the bonds would pay for three buildings for suppliers related to an upcoming expansion at Nissan, the details of which Mississippi Development Authority and legislative officials would not share. Longwitz said the project would create several hundred jobs.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously, but not before an amendment that would set a time limit for the bonds to be issued. Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, proposed the amendment that would give the MCEDA until March 31, 2014, to issue the bonds.

The bill now goes to the House.

Bills that employed standard general obligation financing have not fared well since the beginning of the 2012 legislative session. Last year was the first session in several that lawmakers did not pass a general bond bill for things like infrastructure projects and upgrades to state buildings. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who could not come to terms with House leadership last year on a bond bill, has said several times he’ll support one this year that is “reasonable and rational in size.”

Bryan, who generally leads the charge in scrutinizing incentives the state offers to new and existing businesses, said the Nissan bill’s use of revenue-only bonds that held the state harmless is something that “folks are generally comfortable with.”

This is the fourth consecutive year Nissan has unveiled some kind of expansion in Canton. In 2010 the company announced it was starting production of commercial vans at the facility. In 2011, news broke of the Xterra SUV and Frontier pickup’s lines moving to Canton from the company’s plant in Smyrna, Tann. Last summer, Nissan announced it would start making the Sentra compact sedan in Canton. All told, the three expansions have represented an investment of more than $200 million and have pushed Nissan’s total employment figures to more than 5,000.

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Nissan announces openings in wake of poor national jobs report

September 7th, 2012 No comments

The August jobs report issued Friday morning was mostly met with disappointment, but there was some good news at Canton’s Nissan plant.

The company is looking for maintenance technicians. Candidates with a minimum of five years industrial tech experience are invited to go online to create a profile and submit a resume. Nissan will then select applicants for a round of in-person interviews.

Nissan recently announced that its Canton facility would add the Sentra compact sedan, the Xterra SUV and the Frontier compact truck to its production line. The company will still make the full-size Titan truck, Armada SUV and the mid-size Altima sedan in Canton. New hires to produce the expanded lineup will create a total of 1,000 new jobs, officials announced in June. Total employment at the facility is expected to reach 4,500.

With those additions, total employment at the facility, which opened in 2003, is expected to reach 4,500. To compare, the Toyota plant in Blue Springs employs a little more than 2,000 people directly, but it only produces one vehicle – the Corolla compact sedan.

To apply for a maintenance tech position at Nissan, go here.

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MSU’s CAVS program honored by Southern Growth Policies Board

July 24th, 2012 No comments

Mississippi State University’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension recently won a 2012 Innovator Award from the Southern Growth Policies Board.

 

CAVS, which is based in Canton and was created about a decade ago to work with Nissan, was specifically cited for its “Enhancing On-the-Job Problem Solving” training program. The award is given to programs and initiatives “that are improving the economy and quality of life in the South,” according to SGPB.

 

The problem solving program was funded by a $660,000 federal stimulus grant administered by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. The MDES and the Mississippi Development Authority shared oversight of the program.

 

According to a MSU press release, 60 percent of the 400 Nissan workers who completed the 15-month project have received a pay raise. The program also provided training for Nissan’s suppliers and other partners.

 

CAVS Extension is affiliated with the Engagement and Outreach Service at MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering, which developed and delivered the training program with CAVS Extension and Holmes Community College, whose primary service area includes central Mississippi.

 

An analysis conducted after the program began revealed that 5.8 percent of Mississippi’s automotive workers had higher-order skills — short of the 10.5 percent national average. To help close the gap, the program provided instruction with a three-pronged curriculum: instrumentation and diagnostics, problem-solving methodologies and teaming topics.

 

Researchers and faculty  with the Bagley College of Engineering trained students to use specialized data-gathering equipment and analysis software. CAVS Extension provided specialized problem-solving training and spawned projects designed to solve chronic problems from students’ companies.

 

Holmes Community College provided training aimed at improving students’ communication, leadership and collaboration skills.

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June 28 ceremony to mark Nissan milestones

June 21st, 2012 No comments

There will be a ceremony next Thursday, June 28, at the Nissan plant in Canton to celebrate a few of the facility’s recent achievements.

A press release says state, local and company officials will gather with Nissan employees to mark the company’s “growth strategy to expand production and job creation in Mississippi.” The plant started producing the 2013 Altima June 7. This fall, the Frontier midsize pickup and the Xterra SUV will shift production to Canton, from the company’s Smyrna, Tenn., plant. The Titan truck and Armada SUV have been made at the plant since it came online in 2003. Production of the NV commercial vehicle started a couple years ago.

Overall, the plant has the capacity to make more than 400,000 vehicles per year, and employs over 3,300 people.

The release also says that Nissan and political officials will review what the two entities are doing to expand manufacturing in Mississippi and beyond. The plant, which employs 3,300 people, was Mississippi’s first automotive plant. Toyota became the second last November.

 

 

 

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Official: Automotive support manufacturers looking at Starkville

February 14th, 2012 No comments

Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority President Jon Maynard said at a meeting of that organization Monday that two manufacturers with ties to the automotive industry have started kicking the tires on possible sites in the Starkville area.

According to a story on the Starkville Daily News‘ website, Maynard declined to name the companies, citing confidentiality agreements. Starkville is almost exactly halfway between Canton and Blue Springs, and would make a good geographical match for a company that wanted to do business with Nissan and Toyota. Four-lane highways connect the three cities, so this will certainly be something to keep an eye on.

Maynard also updated the progress on a few other projects that have been simmering for a while in Starkville, including the mixed-use CottonMill Marketplace. The SDN has it covered here.

Additions coming to Nissan’s Canton plant (Updated)

April 20th, 2011 2 comments

There was some Canton-related news at Wednesday’s New York International Auto Show.

To make room for a new Infiniti luxury crossover and the electric LEAF sedan at its Smyrna, Tenn, plant, Nissan will shift production of the Xterra SUV and Frontier pickup models to Canton.

The production shifts are part of Nissan’s overall build-up of its North American manufacturing capacity. Currently, 69 percent of Nissan vehicles are made domestically. By 2015, that will increase to 85 percent. A press release Nissan issued Wednesday morning said production of the LEAF would begin in Smyrna by the end of 2012, so it follows that Canton would start to make the Xterra and Frontier around then.

The Xterra and the Frontier are the second and third additions to Canton’s portfolio in the past year. Last year, Canton started making the NV Commercial Van, which was the company’s first North American foray into the light commercial vehicle market.

“With today’s announcements, we remain on track to localize our manufacturing base around the world – especially in the Americas,” Nissan Americas chairman Carlos Tavares said in the press release. “This drive for balance and flexibility across our operations is essential to support our growth plans in the region.”

 

UPDATE: Gov. Haley Barbour and MDA executive director Leland Speed have just released a statement on the Nissan news. The pertinent language:

 

“I am thrilled Nissan officials are adding two models to the production line-up at their Canton facility as a result of their plans to increase production in North America,” Barbour said. “This decision is a testament to high quality work performed by the employees in Canton. I congratulate them.”
 
The Mississippi Development Authority worked closely with the company to help facilitate the project. The agency provided assistance through the Momentum Mississippi Incentives and Job Protection Grant programs, as well as assistance for training and infrastructure improvements.
 
“Nissan has been a valued member of Mississippi’s corporate community for more than a decade, and the company’s continued investment in its Canton plant speaks volumes of Nissan’s confidence in its skilled Mississippi workforce,” said Speed. “I am proud of the strong partnership we have forged with Nissan over the years and am pleased we were able to provide assistance for this project.”

 

Eminent domain sure to be hot campaign topic

September 14th, 2010 25 comments

Mississippi Farm Bureau President David Waide has told a couple Mississippi media outlets the past few days that supporters of an eminent domain initiative are getting really close to gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the 2011 ballot.

With Waide telling a newspaper in Tupelo that enough signatures have been gleaned from three of the four required Congressional districts, it would be a surprise at this point if organizers did not meet the Oct. 6 deadline to submit their documents to the secretary of state’s office.

The notion that government can use eminent domain to benefit a private enterprise is one of the most contentious political issues Magnolia Marketplace has covered. It is a near certainty that it will be a major talking point for statewide candidates next year.

The most interesting dynamic will likely play out on the Republican side of the field. Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who will run for governor in 2011, did not strongly commit one way or another on the issue during the 2009 session, when the Senate narrowly upheld Gov. Barbour’s veto of a bill that would have restricted the use of eminent domain to projects of public interest, like roads and utilities. It would have been really interesting if the sustain/override vote in the Senate would have required Bryant to break a tie. He’s probably glad it didn’t.

Barbour spent many hours and a lot of energy lobbying lawmakers after he vetoed the legislation, which originally passed both chambers easily. It didn’t garner a single nay in the Senate, clearing that body 52-0. The crux of Barbour’s argument was that things like Toyota and Nissan would not be here if the state were not allowed to use eminent domain during the development of each.

Waide told the Mississippi Business Journal earlier in the summer that he expected enough signatures to arrive some time in September, and that timeline looks like it will be met. Voters will most likely decide the issue next fall. This is one of those issues where candidates will have to go all in or all out. There is no comfortable middle ground. The landowners’ rights lobby and economic development groups both have deep pockets and big voting blocs. Alienating either is never a good campaign strategy, so candidates have a tough decision to make.

MC to host automotive symposium

March 31st, 2010 34 comments

Mississippi’s automotive industry has had quite a bit of news recently. Toyota is still navigating the recall mess, and Nissan just affirmed plans to start producing light commercial vehicles at its facility in Canton, starting this fall.

Those two topics — and the future of Toyota’s Blue Springs facility — will likely be front and center April 16 at the Mississippi College School of Law in Downtown Jackson. The school will hold an automotive symposium from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Student Center.

Some familiar names and faces are scheduled to appear. They include Gov. Haley Barbour; David Copenhaver, vice president of Toyota Manufacturing, Mississippi; Jim Barksdale; Paul Johnson, director of the Toyota project at the Mississippi Development Authority; and Mississippi Economic Council President Blake Wilson.

J. Larry Lee, professor of law at MC, will moderate the event.

According to a press release from the school, the symposium and its participants will “assess the risks and opportunities that will define the future of the automotive industry,” a sector government and economic development officials hope will be a significant part of the Mississippi’s economy moving forward.

Mark your calendar. It’s pretty rare to get a group like this in the same room, so there should be some pretty interesting conversation.


Legislature to adjourn this week minus a budget? And what about those new Nissans?

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace has been making the rounds of the Capitol sources this morning, and we’ve got an interesting nugget to pass along: There are strong expectations that the Legislature will adjourn this week without a budget.

Reason being: The state still needs more information from the federal government regarding Medicaid, and how the state will have to adjust to the new FMAP rules. So the plan is to send lawmakers home while all that is ironed out. Once it is, the Legislature will gavel back into session and hammer out a spending plan for fiscal year 2011, which starts July 1.

The same thing last session kept lawmakers at the Capitol literally until the 11th hour. A budget deal wasn’t reached until minutes before the new fiscal year started. There was a significant hue and cry earlier this session to make sure that didn’t happen again. A giant leap toward a repeat of last year appears ready to happen, though.

Dan Turner, spokesman for Gov. Haley Barbour, would not confirm the rumors but did say such a move “wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.”

So stay tuned on that front.

Shifting gears, Nissan will hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon to provide an update to its $118 million expansion and restructuring that will make way for production of light commercial vehicles. The LCVs are scheduled to hit the market this fall, once the 2011 model year starts. Magnolia Marketplace wrote a story about this very thing two weeks ago, and the company said then that everything was on track. Wednesday should fill in some of the gaps. We’ll have the particulars once it’s over.

IHL confronts fiscal reality

September 24th, 2009 No comments

“We are not here to moan and cry.”

That was College Board President Scott Ross’ opening line to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee this morning as the Institutions of Higher Learning presented its FY2011 budget request. The JLBC has spent this week telling state agencies that money is slim and could get slimmer before the next fiscal year begins next July.

IHL submitted a request that is $42.8 million more than it received in FY2010. Seventeen million dollars of that will pay for a cost of living adjustment that will allow for colleges and universities to keep the purchasing power it has as the price of goods and services rises, IHL Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds told lawmakers.

The bulk of the rest of the additional funding is made up of $21 million for the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“Our big need is to increase our school size,” said interim UMC Chancellor Dr. James Keeton. UMC has 120 medical students, which is all the school can handle with its current size and resources, Keeton said. “We would like to grow that to 150.” While the extra $21 million wouldn’t cover the full cost of growing the student body to 150, it would be a start, Keeton said.

In a nod to the state’s dwindling tax revenue, Bounds said he has talked with all eight university presidents about the idea of consolidating some functions like purchasing, the contract 403(b) notification requirement administration and the IRS 125 administration.

“They are all open to that,” Bounds said.

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said he was “stunned” at that announcement, since the consolidation of any state service has long been a subject most lawmakers and state agencies have refused to even discuss.

“We can’t afford to wake up three or four years from now and have mediocre programs,” Bounds said. “We have to think differently. We also recognize that if all (economic) prognosticators are accurate, we could see some really tough days ahead.”

Bounds did not have a cost savings estimate consolidation of some functions might provide. He did say that IHL is preparing to receive fewer state funds in future budget years, and that there is a plan in place to operate the system in such an event.

The budget Bounds and other officials presented Thursday morning, which totals $841.5 million, is about $200 million less than the budget they originally planned to present. The first budget, Bounds said, would have brought funding for Mississippi’s colleges and universities up to the Southeastern average.

Bounds spent a several minutes selling higher education as a driver of economic development in Mississippi.

“I really believe we can only educate ourselves out of the financial crisis,” he said. “It is absolutely clear that if Mississippi is going to move forward we have to produce a better-educated citizenry.”

Mississippi needs more graduates who fall into the STEM category — Science, Technology, Education and Math, Bounds said.

The funds available for the Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant, which awards $500 per semester to entering freshman who have at least a 15 on the ACT and a 2.5 GPA, are low. The funds are at the same level they were in 2000, but the number of students who are eligible has seen “an appreciable gain,” Bounds said.

With state money in a sharp decline and enrollment up at nearly every institution, Bounds could not rule out tuition increases to make up the difference.

“We will do everything that we can (to prevent tuition increases),” Bounds said. “But I can’t guarantee they won’t go up.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, told Bounds he would do “all I can” to get IHL’s budget funded at the level it requested.

The IHL’s presentation took up the vast majority of this morning’s hearings. Afterward, the Mississippi Development Authority presented a budget request of $22.6 million, which is the same amount it got in FY10. The MDA’s state funding has been basically level since 2003. Federal money makes up most of its budget.

“We cannot afford to lose momentum right now,” MDA Executive Director Gray Swoope told the Committee.

Swoope said that Nissan continues to fulfill the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the state regarding direct job numbers — the company employs about 3,100 people directly — and Toyota is still “fully committed to Mississippi. They are going to build vehicles in Blue Springs.”

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