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New, expanded facilities not as brisk in 2004

Compared to last year, new and expanded facilities in Mississippi are lagging.

According to the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), in 2003 there were a total of 739 new and expansion projects unveiled, creating an estimated 12,907 new jobs and an estimated capital investment of approximately $3.37 billion. That averages out to 62 projects per month, an estimated 1,076 new jobs and an estimated capital investment of approximately $280 million.

Over the first seven months of 2004, Mississippi has seen only 320 new and expansion projects announced, creating an estimated 6,696 new jobs and representing an estimated capital investment of approximately $1.05 billion. On a monthly basis, that’s an average of 46 projects, creating an estimated 957 new jobs and an estimated capital investment of approximately $150 million.

Mississippi had a number of high-profile projects in 2003. If Mississippi were to land a project this year that matched the largest project in 2003, Choctaw Gas Generation, LLC, in Chester, the state would be on par with last year. Indeed, the four largest 2003 projects generated nearly a third — approximately $1.07 billion — of the total estimated capital investment for all of 2003.

And there is optimism that 2004 will round out to a good year for landing projects.

Scott Hamilton, director of communications at MDA, said, “We’re very pleased with progress this year. This year’s figures compare favorably to trends we’ve seen over the last few years. More importantly, our pipeline of potential business is full. We have more projects in the works now than we have ever had.”

Hamilton attributed the increased attention Mississippi is drawing to recent tort reform legislation and Gov. Haley Barbour’s personal connections with business leaders nationwide.

“In economic development, the key is to be there in the end,” Hamilton said. “Before tort reform, a lot of businesses wouldn’t even give us a sniff. Now, we are getting much more interest. The arrival of Nissan has also helped put us on the radar screen.

“Our governor has also had a huge impact. He is very well-known in the business community, and, to be quite honest, a lot of prospects are interested in Mississippi simply because he’s governor.”

There have been a total of 127 new projects announced this year, creating an estimated 3,677 new jobs and an estimated capital investment of approximately $637.87 million. The top job-generating new projects are Textron Fastening Systems in Greenville (500 jobs), FedEx Ground in Olive Branch (290 jobs) and Faurecia in Cleveland (250 jobs). In terms of estimated capital investment, the largest projects are Lakeland Commons in Flowood ($80 million), Dogwood Promenade in Flowood ($65.6 million) and FedEx Ground ($59.8 million).

There were a total of 173 expansions unveiled, creating an estimated 3,019 new jobs and an estimated capital investment of approximately $414.34 million.

The top expansions, in terms of estimated capital investment, are E.I. Dupont De Nemours & Co. Inc. in Pass Christian ($38 million), Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi ($32 million) and The Township at Colony Parkway in Ridgeland ($25 million)

The top expansions, ranked by the estimated new jobs created, are Johnson Controls in Gluckstadt (375 jobs), ATK Southern Composites Center in Iuka (300 jobs) and Pharma Pac, LLC, in DeKalb (200 jobs).

It seems the smart money is on education. Schools, educational organizations and libraries saw the most new construction and expansions announced with 35 projects, outpacing even retail (34 projects). There have also been 18 museum/cultural organizations/arts projects, tying it for third with executive offices.

The impact continues from Nissan North America Inc.’s arrival and the flowering of the automotive manufacturing industry in Mississippi. There have been 15 motor vehicle parts and accessories/tires new and expansion project unveiled, tying it with eating and drinking places/restaurants and medical/healthcare.

An often overlooked type of project is churches. Church construction is an excellent barometer as to the health of an economy — new and bigger churches mean congregations have more money to put in the offering plate. So far in 2004, there have been 10 new and expansions at churches and religious organizations, ranking them ninth.

The tri-county area of Hinds, Madison and Rankin in Central Mississippi has landed the majority of new and expansion projects this year. Combined, they account for 103 of the 320 projects announced this year. Rankin County is tops with 41 projects, followed by Hinds and Madison counties (31 projects each). Alcorn County (15 projects) and Harrison County (14 projects) rank fourth and fifth, respectively.
Rankin County has tallied the most new projects so far in 2004 with 25. Madison County has landed 19 while Alcorn and Hinds counties totaled nine each.

In terms of expansion projects, Hinds County is first with 22 projects. Rankin County (16) and Madison County (13 projects) are second and third, respectively. Other counties ranking high in expansions are Harrison (11 projects) and Alcorn, Jackson, Lincoln and Warren counties, all with six projects each.

Fourteen Mississippi counties have not seen a new or expansion project announced so far in 2004. They are Amite, Calhoun, Clarke, Covington, Grenada, Humphreys, Issaquena, Lawrence, Pike, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tippah and Winston counties.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.


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