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Automotive Expansion Driving Mississippi Forward

Apr/May 08
Mississippi's automotive industry employs more than 26,000 people and continues to grow, "adding needed educational capacity and infrastructure for the continued expansion of this sector," says Gray Swoope, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA).

Since the location of the Nissan plant in 2003, Mississippi has garnered attention in the automotive sector, as suppliers seek sites close to the facility. In addition, Swoope points out that Toyota's choice of northern Mississippi as the home of its eighth North American manufacturing plant constitutes a milestone. The plant is scheduled to start producing Toyota Highlander SUVs in 2010 and will generate 2,000 jobs.

Northeast Mississippi, particularly Blue Springs near Tupelo, has gained a new popularity as a result of the Toyota plant and its suppliers. Swoope notes that in July, an "Invest in Mississippi" program was held in Japan to apprise suppliers of the benefits of doing business in Mississippi. Swoope notes that until Toyota chose the location, many people had never heard of the small town. Since then, five suppliers have announced their intentions for projects with the possibility for up to 1,800 additional jobs.

PACCAR, which manufactures Peterbilt, Kenworth, and DAF trucks, announced a new manufacturing facility near Columbus for diesel truck engines, the company's only North American plant manufacturing these engines. The $400 million facility, which will employ 500 people, will include a 420,000-square-foot engine plant and technology center on a 400-acre site that is slated to begin production in 2010.

Mississippi is also capitalizing on its capabilities and infrastructure to support the aerospace and defense industries, as well as research centers at major universities with that specific focus. Industry aerospace and defense leaders in the state include NASA's Stennis Space Center, EADS, Lockheed, Eaton, and GE Aviation.

Shipbuilding companies are attracted by access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River. Mississippi's Gulf Coast is home to the state's largest employer, Northrup Grumman Shipbuilding, as well as Rolls Royce, Trinity Yachts, and V.T. Halter Marine.