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State’s 2019 top economic projects bring jobs, investments

As 2019 comes to a close, a look back reveals the state’s top economic development projects that are bringing jobs and investments to several counties. Among the top eight projects listed by the Mississippi Development Authority, 2,205 new jobs were created with an investment of $469.5 million. Locations in the state receiving these boosts include the counties of DeSoto, Lee, Hancock, George, Jackson, and Newton. The industry sectors include ship building, aerospace, health care, timber and technology.

The largest eight projects of 2019 include the following:
Amazon, $100 million capital investment, 500 jobs
Fresenius (Spectra Labs), $88 million, 300 jobs
Enviva, $85 million, 90 jobs
Relativity Space, $59 million, 190 jobs
ESCO, $50 million, 150 jobs
General Atomics, $50 million, 75 jobs
VT Halter Marine, $37.5 million, 900 jobs

The Amazon consumer fulfillment center in Olive Branch is the second such facility in north Mississippi. A center was opened in Marshall County in 2018. At the time the announcement was made for the new center, Gov. Phil Bryant called it “a tremendous milestone for DeSoto County and our entire state.”

Another new company, Spectra Laboratories, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fresenius Medical

Care North America, also broke ground in Southhaven this year. The nation’s leading provider of kidney care products and services is locating a 200,000-square-foot laboratory that is expected to create more than 300 jobs over the next three years strengthening the state’s foothold in the health care industry.

Aerospace company Relativity is expanding its rocket component production and rocket engine testing operations at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. Jobs created by this project will increase Relativity’s Stennis Space Center employment to 200 workers. Relativity is the first and only company to integrate metal 3D printing, robotics and software to build and launch rockets in days instead of years. The company develops its own launchers and rocket engines for commercial orbital launch services.

“We look forward to working together to bring more innovation, economic development and job growth to the Gulf Coast and progressing American space leadership. The integration of our 3D printing rocket production and testing facilities on one site will enable Relativity to offer greater flexibility to commercial and government entities needing faster, more frequent and lower cost access to space,” said Jordan Noone, cofounder and CTO of Relativity.

Scotland-based mining equipment manufacturer The Weir Group is investing an additional $15 million in its Newton manufacturing facility as part of a total $50 million plan. When the investment plan is complete, employment will increase to more than 400 workers.

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems is increasing its manufacturing capacity in Shannon to accommodate the addition of a new product line. It’s the company’s 11th expansion in 14 years.

“General Atomics’ continued investment in Lee County and creation of so many jobs over the years speaks to the fact that we have a top-notch manufacturing work force,” Bryant said.

Enviva’s Wood Pellet plant in George County is creating 300 construction jobs and 250 indirect timber-related jobs in addition to the 90 full-time jobs with the plant. Enviva will produce nearly 700 thousand tons of wood pellets a year. A planned shipping terminal will take the product to Pascagoula.

Thanks to a $745 million contract with the U.S. Coast Guard, VT Halter Marine is expanding its Pascagoula shipyard and its workforce. The 900 jobs will be created over the next five years. The contract with the Coast Guard is for the design and construction of a Polar Security Cutter, the first heavy icebreaker constructed in the last four decades. VT Halter Marine expects to deliver the Polar Security Cutter to the U.S. Coast Guard in 2024.

“For the most part, our facility was already sufficient to build it. We had the depth to build it. But we have to reinforce a lot of the things we do. At the same time we want to modernize our shipyard,” said Ron Baczkowski, president and CEO of VT Halter Marine. “We are looking at this as a transformational opportunity. To not just make the ice breakers but modernize Halter Marine.”

The Mississippi Development Authority is making a significant investment in the project by providing a $12.5 million grant for a dry dock and $1.5 million for workforce training.

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About Lynn Lofton