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Location Notebook: Mississippi — Where Key Stakeholders Cooperate for Business Success

Mississippi’s Shovel Award accomplishments reflect a commitment by businesses, their workforces, and the economic development community to work together.

Q2 2018
Toyota recently pledged a $170 million expansion at its Blue Springs operation.
Toyota recently pledged a $170 million expansion at its Blue Springs operation.
Economic development is really a people pursuit. So say those who lead the effort in Mississippi.

It’s about people at state and local governments and agencies who are committed to working with their people partners in business and industry. And it’s about the people whom those businesses hire to succeed in their work. “Gov. Phil Bryant loves to remind people that we work with people,” says Glenn McCullough Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority.

Some 1,800 of those people are beneficiaries of the top 10 location and expansion projects that helped Mississippi recently land yet another Silver Shovel recognition from Area Development, honoring accomplishments from 2017. It was the state’s eighth consecutive Shovel Award, and in accepting it, the governor called it a “strong testament to Mississippi’s supportive business environment, skilled workforce, and dedicated team of economic development professionals who work relentlessly to bring jobs and investment to the people of our state.”

As is the case in just about any state, lining up qualified people to take new jobs is a key challenge that Mississippi leaders have taken on. To that end, says McCullough, “we have a customized workforce training program called Mississippi Works.” That program, and millions of dollars in support from the Mississippi Works Fund, help fulfill training needs related to new job creation as well as job retention.

The result, says McCullough, is that what might otherwise be a workforce challenge turns into a workforce advantage. That advantage, he says, shines in a variety of key sectors including advanced manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, banking and data processing, distribution and logistics, and agribusiness. These are sectors that were well-represented in Mississippi’s 2017 Silver Shovel performance, and he adds that “we’re off to an even faster start in 2018.”

McCullough says his ongoing confidence in that people advantage is reinforced by such developments as the Mississippi Coding Academies. Mississippi Works, the Mississippi Development Authority, and other sponsors are behind the initiative that offers an 11-month program of tuition-free training designed to turn recent high school graduates into full-stack coders and web developers. McCullough calls it an “emerging success story” and says on a recent visit to one of the academy sites he encountered “enthusiastic young people; and they’re going to be career coders.”

Business Commits to Mississippi

Mississippi’s varied successes span the industrial gamut from aerospace to steel, from food processing to automotive.
  1. Northrop Grumman

    Moss Point, MS

    There’s a new machine shop section at Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point manufacturing center, where the aerospace workforce has grown by some 40 percent since last year.

  2. Steel Dynamics

    Columbus, MS

    Steel Dynamics pledged a $230 million investment at its steel mill in northeast Mississippi to add galvanizing capacity and to produce more high-grade steel.

  3. Raytheon

    Forest, MS

    Raytheon has announced a $100 million capital investment at its Forest radar manufacturing plant that will fund a new, 50,000-square-foot facility to produce and test s-band radars involved in the Navy’s air and missile defenses.

  4. General Atomics

    MS

    General Atomics recently announced its 10th expansion in Shannon, Miss., representing a $20 million investment.

  5. Pearl River Foods

    Carthage, MS

    Poultry processor Pearl River Foods is locating a processing plant in Carthage, investing more than $2 million and creating 150 jobs.

  6. Toyota

    Carthage, MS

    Toyota recently pledged a $170 million expansion at its Blue Springs operation.

Another bright spot, also involving future participants in the Mississippi workforce, involves improvements on the primary and secondary education front. McCullough says recent statistics showed that Mississippi third-graders led the nation in improvement in their math and language performance. Meanwhile, “the high school graduation rate has increased to 83 percent,” he says, adding that the state seeks ongoing improvement: “We’d like that to become 100 percent.”

The bottom line, he says, is that “Gov. Bryant believes excellence in education leads to excellence in workforce training, which leads to career paths.” That equation is helping 2018 shape up so far as an even better year than 2017 from an economic development perspective, according to McCullough.

He points to the recent ribbon cutting at a new machine shop section at Northrop Grumman’s Moss Point manufacturing center. The aerospace workforce there has grown by some 40 percent since last year.

Another recent announcement came from Steel Dynamics. The company pledged a $230 million investment at its steel mill in northeast Mississippi to add galvanizing capacity and to produce more high-grade steel.

And Raytheon announced a $100 million capital investment at its Forest radar manufacturing plant. That’ll fund a new, 50,000-square-foot facility to produce and test s-band radars involved in the Navy’s air and missile defenses. The result, says McCullough, is dozens of high-paying jobs. “Mississippians will assemble the most innovative radar systems in the world,” he says.
MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough, Jr. addresses students of the Coding Academy.
MDA Executive Director Glenn McCullough, Jr. addresses students of the Coding Academy.
McCullough rattles off other recent success stories, from growth at General Atomics to investments by Pearl River Foods. And there’s automotive manufacturing, of course, including the state’s Nissan and Toyota operations. Toyota, in fact, recently pledged a $170 million expansion at its Blue Springs operation. According to McCullough, “they set records assembling 500,000 Corollas faster than any plant in North America.”

It comes back to the people, he says. They work well, they work efficiently, they get positive things done, and as a result, they’re attracting even more opportunities for even more people. McCullough says he’s proud of the state’s Shovel Award accomplishments and is confident the positives will only grow from here.
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