Nissan sets July sales record; Toyota sales also increase

August 1st, 2013 No comments

For the second consecutive month, Nissan has set a sales record.

Data the company released Thursday morning show total July sales for Nissan and Infiniti were up 10.9 percent over last year. Total units sold were 109,041.

The Nissan division also set a July record, with 101,279 units sold, up 16.8 percent over July 2012.

Sales of the Sentra compact sedan, which is made in Canton, were up 15.7 percent5, with 11,439 units sold. Sales of another Canton product, the midsize Altima sedan, were up 11 percent, with 29,534 units sold.

The news caps off an eventful week for Nissan’s Canton assembly plant. On Tuesday, officials broke ground on a 1 million square foot supplier park. The park, paid for with a $100 million bond package lawmakers passed last session, is expected to create a total of 800 jobs in advance of the crossover Murano being made in Canton starting next year.

The Madison County Economic Development Authority will issue the bonds. Nissan will service the debt with lease revenue the park’s buildings generate.

Last month, Nissan set a June sales record with 104,124 units sold. Nissan Division sales also set a June record, with 95,010 units sold. That represents a 16.1 percent increase over last June.

Toyota also reported July sales results Thursday. The company said it sold 193,394 units, an increase of 12.6 percent over July 2012. On a raw-volume basis, unadjusted for 25 selling days in July 2013 versus 24 selling days in July 2012, Toyota sales increased 17.3 percent from the year-ago month.

“Solid industry sales in July point to a stable market indicating a recovering economy,” Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, said in a company press release. “Consumer confidence also maintained elevated levels as evidenced by strong retail sales.”

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Nissan breaks ground on supplier park

July 30th, 2013 No comments

Nissan announced Tuesday that it will build a supplier park in Canton.

The park is expected to create a total of 800 jobs – 400 each at the park and at the existing manufacturing facility.

The supplier park will be the first of its kind for Nissan in North America.

Construction of a more than 1 million square-foot integrated logistics center off Nissan Parkway and infrastructure improvements to an existing supplier logistics center at the Canton plant will accommodate future supplier operations.

“Today, we begin an exciting new chapter in Mississippi as we continue our localization and investment efforts in the United States,” Nissan Vice President for Total Delivered Cost Dan Bednarzyk said in a company press release. “Today’s groundbreaking supports our efforts to bring more Nissan cars and trucks to our plant in Mississippi, and means more Mississippi jobs. Additionally, the supplier park will help make us more globally competitive in our Canton, Miss., plant.”

Lawmakers approved in the session that ended in April a $100 million bond package for the park. The Madison County Economic Development Authority will issue the bonds; debt service will be paid by lease revenue generated by the park’s tenants.

The Mississippi Development Authority provided assistance in support of the integrated logistics center for site preparation and infrastructure. To assist with the renovation of the supplier logistics center, MDA provided assistance for building upgrades, modifications and worker training.

“In the 10 years since it began operations, Nissan has become the cornerstone for Mississippi’s automotive industry and has created a model for manufacturing in our state today,” said MDA executive director Brent Christensen. “It is a big part of our mission to assist great companies such as Nissan as they grow and create job opportunities for Mississippi’s residents, and we thank our partners in Madison County who worked with us to help make this project possible.”

Nissan employs more than 5,600 people at the Canton plant. The company first announced plans to construct the manufacturing plant in 2000, and started began production in 2003. The facility has built more than 2.3 million vehicles, with current production of the award-winning Altima, Sentra compact sedan, Armada full-size SUV, Xterra mid-size SUV, Titan and Frontier pickup trucks and NV full-size commercial cargo and passenger vans.

Nissan’s crossover model, the Murano, will become the ninth vehicle produced at the Canton plant beginning in 2014.

Sanderson Farms still considering golf tournament sponsorship

July 30th, 2013 No comments

Deciding whether to pick up the three-year title sponsorship option for the Sanderson Farms Championship was on the agenda for the Laurel poultry producer’s board of directors of meeting last week.

The board didn’t make a decision, company treasurer and CFO Mike Cockrell said, but the reviews were good.

“The reaction was what we anticipated,” he said in an interview Monday. “It was very positive and we think there’s a lot that can be done.”

Sanderson and the PGA Tour have a 30-day window to renew the partnership. Sanderson stepped in last spring as a replacement for Viking Range Corp., which did not renew as title sponsor after the 2011 tournament. The agreement was only for this year’s tournament, which ended July 21.

A consortium of medical providers served as sponsors for the 2012 True South Classic. Before that, the tournament, played at Madison’s Annandale Golf Club, was known as the Viking Classic.

The 30-day window closes Aug. 20. Cockrell said extending it would be a possibility, if the board is unable to decide by then if Sanderson will exercise the three-year sponsorship option.

Cockrell said discussions with the PGA will continue into August.

“There may be a few things we want to tweak,” he said. “But anything we do has to be consistent with what the PGA wants. The board met, everything was positive, they enjoyed the experience, and discussions are going to continue.”

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Nissan to release expansion plans Tuesday

July 29th, 2013 No comments

Nissan will unveil expansion plans at its Canton manufacturing facility Tuesday morning.

The company has spent most of 2013 celebrating 10 years of production in Mississippi. A company press release did not offer details of what sort of expansion Canton will undergo.

Last legislative session, lawmakers approved and Gov. Phil Bryant signed $100 million worth of bonds for the facility. The Madison County Economic Development Authority will issue the bonds; debt service will be paid by lease revenue Nissan will generate from suppliers in two new buildings planned for the complex.

Expansion plans will be detailed Tuesday at 10 a.m. during a ceremony at the Nissan complex off I-55.

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Thompson, Black Caucus endorse Jackson Lee for DHS post

July 25th, 2013 1 comment
Bennie Thompson

Bennie Thompson

Mississippi 2nd District Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, was among the names thrown around earlier in July as a possible replacement for former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Thompson, a ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement then that he wasn’t interested. It appears he was serious.

In a letter dated July 25 to President Barack Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus – of which Thompson is a member – asked Obama to nominate Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to the post. Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat whose district encompasses most of Houston, has been in Congress since the mid-1990s. She also is a ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security.

The letter says Jackson Lee “would serve as an effective DHS secretary because she understands the importance of increasing border security and maintaining homeland safety.” The letter notes that in her former position as chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, Jackson Lee advocated for increased airplane cargo inspections and increased railroad safety.

Obama’s eventual pick for the top spot at Homeland Security has not gotten as much attention as his nominee for the No. 2 position there. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Alejandro Mayorkas, who currently heads the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, is under investigation by DHS’ inspector general to determine his role in securing an EB-5 visa for a well-connected foreign investor.

The EB-5 program offers permanent resident visas to foreign investors who pump a minimum of $1 million into a U.S. Economic Development project; that number drops to $500,000 for projects in economically distressed areas. One of the regional centers that administers the EB-5 program, Gulf Coast Funds, once helped GreenTech Automotive round up investors for its projects in Horn Lake and Tunica. The company builds a neighborhood electric vehicle in Horn Lake, and has plans to build full-size electric vehicles in Tunica.

To read the Black Caucus’ letter, click here.

Sanderson Farms to mull golf tournament sponsorship Thursday

July 24th, 2013 No comments

A Sanderson Farms executive said Wednesday that a decision whether to pick up the three-year option to sponsor the Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament would be made this week.

Mike Cockrell, Sanderson treasurer and CFO, said the company’s board will address the option during a meeting Thursday.

The Laurel-based poultry producer stepped in as the title sponsor earlier this year, four months before the tournament, which concluded Sunday, was set to begin. Sanderson replaced Viking Range Corp. as the event’s title sponsor. Sanderson’s agreement was for this year’s tournament only, but a three-year option was included. The company has 30 days to exercise or decline the option.

“So I think they’ll decide fairly quickly,” Cockrell said. “They need to hear from those of us who were on the ground, what our experience was. One of the reasons we did this obviously was to benefit (the Blair E. Batson Children’s hospital at University of Mississippi Medical Center), as far as how much we were able to contribute through the Birdies for Charity program. That was our main deal to be honest.”

Cockrell said if Sanderson does renew its sponsorship, one of the priorities will be to spread the tournament’s reach across Mississippi. Right now, he said, it’s mainly an event for Metro Jackson. It’s played at Madison’s Annandale Golf Club. “It really doesn’t get a lot of play beyond that area,” Cockrell said.

Serving as the title sponsor for the tournament represented Sanderson’s first serious foray into the world of public relations and marketing, Cockrell said. Assessing the return the company got will be one of the things the board considers as it makes its decision. Sanderson hired The Cirlot Agency, a Jackson-based PR and branding firm, to market Sanderson and the tournament.

“This is a new venture for us,” Cockrell said. “(The board) needs to get a feel for how the PR went. It was our first time working with a big PR firm. It’s actually been amazing to me how they track how many times we were mentioned whether on a sports or news broadcast, and how much mentions like that would have cost in a traditional advertising setting. They tracked all that, and the board will examine that very closely. We’ll report on that. As an aside, we need to determine whether our customers enjoyed it, and whether we got the right bang for our buck. The rest of it is basically a gut feeling. But I can tell you we had a really good experience with all of it.”

Tournament director Kathryn Satcher said officials were able to do everything they wanted to do in the four months they had to plan. “They were a great partner,” she said of Sanderson.

Satcher said Wednesday the final numbers were still being calculated, but that attendance exceeded last year’s tournament. She attributed that to most of the hospitality tents and events being located around the 18th hole, instead of being spread across Annandale like years past.

“That concentrated the energy in one place, and people really responded,” Satcher said.

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GreenTech’s Tunica facility construction hits Phase 2

July 17th, 2013 No comments

Construction of GreenTech Automotive’s facility in Tunica has entered Phase 2.

That encompasses the main building phase, a company press release said Wednesday.

“After more than a year of planning, testing and site preparation, we are excited for GreenTech’s permanent home to start taking shape in Phase 2,” said Charles Wang, Greechairman and CEO of GTA. “The new facility is being designed for a production capacity of 30,000 vehicles per year. We are looking forward to completing the new facility early next year and continuing to create new jobs in northern Mississippi.”

Phase 2 will include the construction of GTA’s manufacturing facility, offices and meeting space, and will run through the end of this year. Production is scheduled to start by April 2014. GTA currently operates a pilot manufacturing facility in Horn Lake, where it builds MyCar, a two-seat Neighborhood Electric Vehicle, and GTA’s new five-seat, All-Electric Sedan. Production at the Horn Lake plant started last summer.

GreenTech has until the end of 2014 to create a minimum of 350 jobs at its Tunica facility, per the terms of a $3 million loan the Mississippi Development Authority made the company in 2011.

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Supreme Court revises Kemper litigation briefing schedule

July 16th, 2013 No comments

In an order Tuesday, the Mississippi Supreme Court changed the briefing schedule for attorneys involved in litigation surround Mississippi Power Co.’s Kemper County coal plant.

In June, the Mississippi Supreme Court consolidated two different sets of litigation surrounding the project.  Justices also ordered that attorneys for a Hattiesburg resident who is challenging the Baseload Act — the 2008 law that allows utilities to charge ratepayers for facilities as they are being built — and Mississippi Power submit briefs related to the issue within 30 days.

That would have set July 21 as the briefing deadline. The court heard oral arguments on the Baseload issue earlier this year.

The new briefing schedule allows attorneys a total of 70 days to file briefs related to the issues in question. The clock started July 10, when the order was entered.

Earlier this week, Mississippi Power asked the Mississippi Public Service Commission to start reviewing the coal plant’s costs. The prudency reviews could take several months; it could be the first part of 2014 before hearings are held.

The cost of the plant has gone up to just a little more than $4 billion, though commissioners have routinely said they will not allow the utility to pass any costs above $2.4 billion to ratepayers.

How much weight would Thompson’s endorsement carry in an election to replace him?

July 15th, 2013 No comments

Mississippi 2nd District congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, was one of the names floated Monday as a possibility to replace outgoing Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano. (The Politico story in which Thompson is mentioned can be read here.)

Thompson has represented the 2nd District – which encompasses the Mississippi Delta and parts of Hinds County – since the early 1990s. His seat is considered the safest in the state; his re-election every two years is all but guaranteed.

Because of that, Thompson often holds considerable sway over municipal and county races within his district. And because of that, Thompson’s preferred candidate to replace him, should he get the DHS post, would have a built-in advantage.

Maybe.

Two Mississippi Democratic party sources were split Monday on how much influence Thompson’s endorsement would mean in an election for his old seat. If Thompson were to vacate the office he’s held for two decades, his political clout in the 2nd District would diminish, stripping his endorsement of the punch it normally carries, one source said.

The other believes there’s no chance of anybody winning the seat without Thompson making it known that’s who he wants to succeed him.

Assuming the latter notion is correct, one name to watch could be Jackson city councilman Melvin Priester Jr., who won Jackson mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s old Ward 2 seat last month. Ward 2 covers northwest Jackson and is within Thompson’s 2nd District.

Priester earned Thompson’s endorsement in the race to replace Lumumba; the congressmen even participated in a fundraiser for the new councilman. Priester is in his early 30s, has a law degree and is viewed as having solid potential. (For that matter, Lumumba earned Thompson’s endorsement in his mayoral race, but age could be an issue. Lumumba is in his 60s.)

If Thompson’s endorsement turns out not to carry its usual weight, former state Rep. Chuck Espy, D-Clarksdale, is a possibility. Espy lost to Thompson in the 2010 Democratic primary, but not as badly as some of Thompson’s other opponents, getting 47 percent of the vote.

In May, Espy lost the Democratic primary in Clarksdale’s mayoral race to former gubernatorial candidate Bill Luckett. Luckett, an attorney, won the general election and was sworn in as Clarksdale’s mayor earlier this month.

Former Greenville mayor Heather McTeer-Toney is another who would go without Thompson’s blessing. McTeer-Toney opposed Thompson last year, and got walloped. Thompson got 83 percent of the vote.

And as noted Monday afternoon by Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reporter Bobby Harrison, new Vicksburg mayor George Flaggs – who just resigned his state House seat to take the position – would have an interesting decision to make should Thompson’s seat become available.

The only certainties surrounding a possible election to replace Thompson is that the field would be crowded, there would be a Democratic primary runoff, and the question of how much weight Thompson’s endorsement would carry in his old district would be answered one way or another.

Tanglefoot Trail set for Aug. 17 opening

July 15th, 2013 No comments

Officials connected to the Tanglefoot Trail told the Mississippi Business Journal last month that the multi-use recreational trail would be open by football season.

Late last week, a date was attached to that estimate.

A grand opening ceremony is set for Aug. 17 in Houston and New Albany, which represent the northern and southern ends of the 44-mile trail. A silver railroad spike will be carried through each town, and will be driven into the ground in Pontotoc.

The trail is an old Gulf Mobile & Ohio railroad bed that has been paved. Whistle stops have been added in Houlka, Ecru, Algoma and Ingomar. A study conducted last year said the trail could draw 100,000 visitors annually, and have an economic impact of about $5 million in the seven towns it passes through.

Betsey Hamilton, chairperson of the GM&O Rails to Trails Recreational District, said in June that those numbers are preliminary, and are based on data from South Mississippi’s Longleaf Trace Recreational Trail. “I don’t know we’ll be that big” immediately, Hamilton said.

Tanglefoot was paid for with a $9.6 million federal transportation grant, to go with $450,000 in state and local money.

Construction started last year.

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