However, Mississippi’s economic growth has been relatively slow overall since the 2008 recession when compared to the United States as a whole, according to Mississippi Today, a digital news site. The state’s GDP growth has been under 1 percent in nine of the past 10 years versus national growth between 1.6 percent and 2.9 percent each year since the recession ended, according to the news site’s research.
But McCullough points to recent major economic development project announcements as offering positive signals for the state. In December 2018, Amazon announced plans for a consumer goods fulfillment center in Marshall County, creating a projected 850 jobs. Then, in October 2019, Amazon announced a second fulfillment center in DeSoto County that is expected to result in 500 new jobs. Meanwhile, Continental Tire opened a new $1.45 billion commercial truck tire plant in Hinds County in October. Once the plant is operating at full capacity, it is expected to result in a total of 2,500 jobs. Continental Tire has said it will be the most technologically advanced tire plant in North America.
A Soaring Aerospace Sector
Mississippi’s target industries include aerospace, agribusiness, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare. In particular, McCullough calls Mississippi “a global leader” in aerospace and says the state is seeing aggressive growth in that field. Space exploration is a large component of that growth through NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. SpaceX has its rocket engine testing program at Stennis, and Relativity Space announced in 2019 that it was investing $59 million to expand its rocket component production and rocket engine testing operations at Stennis.
Mississippi has proven to be a popular location for aerospace companies — including Aurora Flight Sciences, Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems, and Stark Aerospace — that are researching and producing unmanned aerial systems. The FAA has named Mississippi State University home of the Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aerial Systems, a coalition of university, government, and industry partners to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the national air space.
“As this sector continues to grow, training programs to prepare our workforce for careers in this exciting field are becoming more available throughout the state,” McCullough notes. “This includes Hinds Community College’s UAV Pilot Training Program, which partners with Pearl River Community College and the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, to offer academic and hands-on training to both active military and civilians. We anticipate continued growth in this sector as well and look forward to the exciting jobs it will create.”
Recent Economic Development Projects for Mississippi
AmazonMarshall County, MS
In December 2018, Amazon announced plans for a consumer goods fulfillment center in Marshall County, creating a projected 850 jobs.
AmazonDeSoto County, MS
In October 2019, Amazon announced a second fulfillment center in DeSoto County that is expected to result in 500 new jobs.
Continental TireHinds County, MS
Continental Tire opened a new $1.45 billion commercial truck tire plant in Hinds County in October. Once the plant is operating at full capacity, it is expected to result in a total of 2,500 jobs.
NASA’s Stennis Space CenterHancock County, MS
SpaceX has its rocket engine testing program at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, and Relativity Space announced in 2019 that it was investing $59 million to expand its rocket component production and rocket engine testing operations at Stennis.
Aurora Flight SciencesColumbus, MS
Mississippi has proven to be a popular location for aerospace companies that are researching and producing unmanned aerial systems, including Aurora Flight Sciences.
Northrop Grumman Unmanned SystemsJackson County, MS
Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems is located in Mississippi’s Jackson County.
Stark AerospaceLowndes County, MS
Stark Aerospace in Lowndes County is another Mississippi producer of unmanned aerial systems.
Hinds Community CollegeRaymond, MS
Hinds Community College’s UAV Pilot Training Program partners with Pearl River Community College and the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center to offer academic and hands-on training to both active military and civilians.
As do many of its neighbors in the Southeast, Mississippi faces workforce challenges. The state’s labor participation rate is the second-lowest in the country (55.6 percent), according to Mississippi Today, and job growth has been slower than overall in the U.S.
“In terms of jobs, according to the official statistics, that are subject to revision, Mississippi has recovered the jobs it lost in the recession [however] it took a long time,” Darrin Webb, a state economist, told Mississippi Today.
The state also has seen “a brain drain,” experiencing a loss of 4,000 in net population since 2014, according to Census figures. In response to that, McCullough says the state is looking to promote itself to young state residents and to highlight opportunities they can find in Mississippi. “We offer a culture that can’t be replicated anywhere else, and we are working to market that to our younger generations so they can see the abundance of recreational and cultural offerings found right here at home,” he says.
According to McCullough, the state has also made important strides in improving its educational system.
“Under the leadership of Gov. Bryant, Mississippi has experienced transformational improvement in public education,” McCullough says. “Third-graders currently lead the nation in improvement in reading and math scores. The state’s high school graduation rate is 85 percent, which is the national average.”
Additionally, Mississippi offers programs designed to strengthen the state’s workforce. MS Works, the state workforce development program, partners with companies to provide apprenticeships, internships, and customized workforce training programs. Also, the Mississippi Works Fund was launched in 2016 with an allocation of $50 million over 10 years to the state’s 15 community colleges to enhance their training programs to better meet industry needs.
Economic Development Toolbox
Mississippi’s 2019 legislative session led to new economic development tools for the state that will help continue to entice new corporate investments, says McCullough. For instance, legislators streamlined and enhanced incentives for aerospace companies and data centers.
“The Mississippi team of economic developers and state and local officials collaborate with businesses to customize incentive packages unique to their needs so that they have a seamless location or expansion in our state,” McCullough explains.
The legislature also committed investments to the state’s site development program for infrastructure and water and rail infrastructure. In addition, the legislature authorized the Mississippi Development Authority to issue $3 million in bonds for improvements in the site development program and utilities.
“There are a record number of jobs available, a record number of Mississippians working, and unemployment is at a record low,” McCullough concludes. “We are preparing for the future with innovative workforce development and site development programs. Mississippi’s economy has continued its upward trend over the past year with many significant project announcements and milestone events taking place throughout the state. The Mississippi legislature, as well as state and local leaders, play as a team to win projects.” Overall, McCullough says, “The economic picture in Mississippi is bright.”