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Q&A: Jay C. Moon, President/CEO, Mississippi Manufacturers Association

Every effort being made

Moon: Manufacturing losses can be reversed

Before taking over as president and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association in 2002, Jay C. Moon held the position of deputy director at the Mississippi Development Authority, where he led the successful effort to locate the Nissan automotive plant in Canton.  He recently sat down with the Mississippi Business Journal’s Nash Nunnery to discuss the MMA and the impact manufacturing has on the state’s economy.

Q —  What is the role and mission of the MMA for its members?

A — MMA works daily to create a better business climate for manufacturers in Mississippi. As the voice of industry, the mission of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association is to provide high-quality goods and services to its members and to identify, disseminate and utilize information necessary to promote a strong manufacturing environment within Mississippi.

Q —  Please offer our readers a brief history of the organization.

A — MMA has served as the voice of Mississippi’s industry since 1951. At that time, manufacturing plants were beginning to open rapidly in the state, transforming agriculture workers, who were being displaced by mechanization, into production workers. John C. Lake, president of Grenada Industries, organized a meeting of 14 other Mississippi industrialists with the goal of forming an association to serve as the voice of Mississippi industry in dealing with the agriculture-oriented state Legislature. Since then, the organization has grown from employing a part-time executive director to having 18 professional and administrative staff serving the needs of Mississippi’s manufacturers today.

Q —  Manufacturing nationwide has taken a huge hit during the downturn in the economy.  How have the MMA members dealt with the situation and are they convinced the current trend could be reversed?

A — MMA members have been substantially impacted because of the downturn in the economy. As purchasing power declined and unemployment began to rise, fewer people were buying manufactured products. Products that we make in Mississippi such as furniture, musical equipment and kitchen appliances saw a reduction in demand by the public at large. In order to keep their facilities open, our members had to cut their operating costs. Unfortunately, this has included furloughing employees, putting them on reduced hours or permanently reducing their workforce. Many have also used this downturn in the economy to purchase new equipment or enact new efficiency measures that will cut their operating costs, increase efficiency and improve their overall productivity.

Q —  Are they convinced the current trend can be reversed?

A — Every effort has been made by the majority of manufacturers to keep their places of business operational. They fully believe that they can expand their operations and rehire at least some of their employees if the economy continues to strengthen. However, they are very concerned regarding some of the policies they see under discussion in our nation’s capital. Bills like cap and trade, card check and new environmental regulations concern them a great deal. If any of these bills become law, they could experience real difficulty in making a full recovery.

Q —  What are the challenges faced by the industry as a whole?

A — 1. Global Competition – Increasingly, manufacturers are locating their operations in lower cost jurisdictions than the United States.

2. Foreign Subsides – In many developing countries, the government provides subsidies to the manufacturers in those countries. These subsidies can include no interest loans, infrastructure and low labor costs paid for by the government. This makes it difficult for the U.S. manufactures to compete with these businesses.

3. Currency Manipulation – Some countries, like China, artificially manipulate their currency values. This has the effect of insuring that U.S. based manufacturers cannot compete in those markets.

4. Taxation – The United States levies the second-largest tax burden of any industrialized nation on its manufacturers. Higher cost insures that our businesses will find it more difficult to compete.

5. Regulation – Excessive federal and state regulatory burdens require a higher operating cost profile for our manufacturers. Again, a higher cost to do business makes our businesses less competitive.

6. High Cost of Fuel and Raw Materials – Massive consumption of fuel and materials such as copper used in the manufacturing process by other competing nations drives the cost of manufacturing even higher.

7. Unfair Trading Practices – The United States has opened its borders to more trade through free trade agreements. Roughly 66 percent of America’s imports are duty free. However, many countries impose tariffs on U.S. made products or impose restrictive regulations keeping U.S. products out of their markets.

8. Counterfeit Goods – The sale of counterfeit goods around the world represents a $250-billion loss to global and U.S. manufacturers.

The U.S. needs to decide if manufacturing, which is and has been the bedrock of the U.S. economy, is an economic sector worthy of support. Manufactures in the U.S. can compete on a global basis if the deck is not stacked too heavily against them.

Q —  What is the future of manufacturing in Mississippi?

A — I believe the future of manufacturing in Mississippi can be very good. We have a world-class workforce, and domestic and international companies have prospered and grown through their locations in our state. We have modern intermodal facilities offering highway, rail, air and sea connections to major markets in the U.S. and around the world. However, we cannot lose sight of what it takes for these great companies to remain competitive in a very global marketplace. If we continue to work with our existing manufacturers providing a competitively priced place to do business, a trained workforce and a business supportive environment, Mississippi will see our manufacturing base solidify in the years ahead.

Q —  How has the business of manufacturing changed over the past decade?

A — There have been two major changes that have occurred in manufacturing. The first is called competitive positioning. This is where a manufacturer consolidates their operations to achieve more focus, interaction and collaboration. It includes diversification of location to access, reach and understand new markets and cultures. Integrating the enterprise on a global basis whereby each activity center is broken out individually to determine what location can produce the lowest cost and the highest quality. And, finally, more innovation to optimize location, quality and cost.

The second major change involves those actions taken by manufacturers to optimize productivity. Generally, this move has involved the use of new technologies and efficiencies to cut cost and enhance quality. Unfortunately, the greater use of technology, in many cases, requires hiring fewer employees.

Q —  What are the benefits of membership?

A — There are many benefits of joining MMA. As Mississippi’s premier pro-industry association, MMA works hard to protect and promote the interests of all Mississippi manufacturers. For example, through our lobbying efforts, MMA is looking out for manufacturers’ interests during the legislative process, both in Jackson and Washington, on issues and topics such as workforce development, taxation, transportation and the environment.

In addition to our lobbying efforts, members benefit from information they receive from our regular newsletters, which provide manufacturing, environmental and legal updates pertinent to their businesses.

Members of MMA also can benefit from having the MMA staff of experts just one simple phone call away. The MMA staff act as an extension of a member’s staff and can assist with questions on topics like human resources, OSHA and safety, employee relations, union activity, EEOC, taxes or anything that may be of concern to a business.

MMA offers our members training programs & seminars that help their businesses and employees comply with government standards and regulations. With more than 30 seminars annually, MMA provides training on a number of relevant topics such as employee supervision, OSHA requirements and human resource issues.

Q —  As MMA president, what has been your greatest accomplishment?

A — It has been my responsibility to raise the profile of manufacturing’s importance to our communities and our state. I believe that this effort has resulted in public officials, the media and the public at large recognizing that we as a nation have a secure future if manufacturing is a major part of that future. Manufacturing jobs pay higher wages, provide better benefits, sponsor the majority of the research and development in this country, and helps to keep our nation’s security strong. More people now recognize these facts and I am proud to have played a role in that educational process.

Hometown: Pensacola, Fla.
Degree(s): B.A., University of Georgia; Master of Public Administration – University of Georgia; certified economic developer and a graduate of the Economic Development Institute
Hobbies/Interests: Reading history, hunting, fly fishing
Favorite Meal: Steak
Favorite Movie: “Casablanca”
Last Book Read: “How the Scots Invented the Modern World”
Person who’s inspired you most: My father was a 30-year U.S. Navy veteran. He was a World War II, Korea and Vietnam participant. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. His devotion to his country, his career and his family has always been the greatest source of inspiration to me.

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