Mississippi is living up to its global reputation as a powerhouse for manufacturing, healthcare, aerospace and transportation, and the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) is setting the bar high by providing opportunities for exporters, investors, and industries.
An International Network
Through MDA’s international offices in Yokohama, Japan; Seoul, Korea; and Santiago, Chile, the agency has successfully recruited international companies to Mississippi. Now, the economic development agency is working to expand into the European market, specifically Germany. MDA’s goal for the near future is to have a full-time representative in Germany to promote Mississippi and exports from the state, as well as develop investment leads.
Mississippi has an extensive history in recruiting European manufacturing companies, as this sector represents one of the state’s leading industries. A prime example is Germany-based Continental Tire, located just west of the state’s capital of Jackson. Continental’s massive five million-plus-square-foot facility, a $1.45 billion investment, produces commercial vehicle tires. The manufacturer plans to develop a workforce of 2,500 employees by 2028. Since launching tire production at the Hinds County facility in 2019, Continental Tire has already reached the 500-employee mark.
A Diversified Manufacturing Base
Mississippi’s manufacturing sector is highly diversified. Ardagh Group is a global company best known for its metal and glass packaging. The industry leader recently began manufacturing package sizes recognized across growing beverage categories such as hard seltzers, sparkling water, energy drinks and teas. When the company decided to add the manufacturing lines necessary to accomplish this, Mississippi was able to provide the workforce and the facility needed.
“The list of global companies that call Mississippi home and maintain successful operations in the state is ongoing,” said MDA Executive Director John Rounsaville. “These companies realize the benefits and advantages of doing business in our state, as evidenced by continued investments in their Mississippi operations and the creation of thousands of jobs for Mississippi’s workers.”
Rolls-Royce has been in Mississippi since 2007. The British company is located at Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The company benefits from two outdoor jet engine testing facilities where the company tests its latest civil aircraft engines. Columbus, Mississippi, is home to Stark Aerospace, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries. Stark Aerospace’s Unmanned Systems Division manufactures the Arrowlite sUAS and supports the U.S. Army’s Hunter MQ-B5 UAS. The company’s Sensors Division and Engineering Division also play instrumental roles in its aerostructures and composites manufacturing capabilities. In Columbia, Mississippi, Zodiac Parachute and its parent company Safran produce military-grade parachutes. French-owned Safran has a history with NASA and has participated in some of the space agency’s missions.
From large global companies with a strong emphasis on technology and engineering to smaller distribution facilities and aerospace companies, Mississippi sets the bar high in providing market advancements for all types of companies, including ABB and Ajinomoto Foods. Switzerland-based, technology-driven company ABB announced an expansion in 2019 at its Senatobia location, while Japan-based Ajinomoto Foods has undergone several expansions at its Oakland specialty frozen foods manufacturing facility to accommodate growth and meet an increase in demand.
A Strong Business Environment
Supporting the continued growth of these industry leaders is Mississippi’s strong business environment, which bolsters the state’s position as an economic development powerhouse prepared to accommodate even the most complex business operations. From the state’s one-stop, seamless permitting process, the low cost of doing business and low utility rates to its integrated transportation system and prime location in the southeast U.S., Mississippi is an ideal location for foreign companies to increase their global footprint. The state’s convenient access to national and international markets also makes it a prime location for companies with extensive shipping needs.
“Our excellent transportation network includes six interstate highways and 14 federal highways; 76 airports, including two international airports; dozens of rail systems that serve 2,500 miles of track throughout the state; and 15 ports found along Mississippi’s three navigable waterways,” said Rounsaville. “The Mississippi River borders the state to the west, the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway borders the state to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico forms Mississippi’s border to the south. Mississippi boasts two deep-water ports along the Gulf of Mexico, allowing companies convenient, quick access to international markets.”
MDA’s International Trade Office takes a direct approach to increasing FDI in the state. From providing travel support and market research to industry briefings and meeting coordination for international trade missions, exporters are able to meet with foreign prospects without driving up costs. MDA works to pre-qualify buyers, distributors and other business representatives while also providing workshops, seminars and marketing assistance for companies looking to start or increase trade in markets around the world. These services help develop long-term growth and job creation, as well as the globalization of the state’s economy.
Contributing to Mississippi’s global network, farmers in the state have seen an increase in international trade activity. In September 2019, Mississippi was confirmed for the first time in history as part of Taiwan’s Agricultural Trade Goodwill Mission. Representatives with the Taiwan Vegetable Oil Manufacturers Association, along with the Taiwan Feed Industry Association, confirmed the purchase of 96 million bushels of soybeans (with an estimated value of $1.1 billion) and 197 million bushels of corn (with an estimated value of about $1.1 billion). Mississippi is one of four states that agreed to supply soybeans and corn, with the total amount divided between the participating states based on the negotiations of producers and buyers.
A Talented Labor Force
To further enhance Mississippi’s strong portfolio of business advantages, MDA, in partnership with the state’s community colleges, research universities, regional and local leaders, focuses heavily on developing a talented labor force from which companies can find qualified, skilled workers to meet their immediate needs so they can hit the ground running from day one. MDA also recognizes that as times evolve, so do the needs of industry. Therefore, the agency is proactively working to develop the workforce of the future so that generations from now, Mississippi’s companies are still just as competitive in the global marketplace.
“We are well aware that a top priority for companies seeking to locate or expand operations is access to a well-trained pipeline of workers,” noted Rounsaville. “Mississippi has made developing the country’s best workforce its top priority. In conjunction with the state’s community colleges and universities, the state guarantees companies quality, customized workforce training programs. As companies grow and evolve, so must their employees.”
Despite the numerous disruptions created by the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, MDA proved to be more than prepared to continue its mission of creating stronger communities through economic development. The agency’s leadership and business-minded strategies carried the state through one of the most economically disruptive times in recent years. In fact, in 2020, MDA’s efforts generated $1.9 billion in capital investment for the state, a 45 percent increase from 2019. That significant accomplishment is not the result of the agency landing one megaproject, but more the result of the MDA team working each project that was presented to the state the same way as previous years – by working with each company to address their specific needs so the end result was new job opportunities for Mississippi’s hard-working citizens.
“Moving beyond 2020, which as we know was an incredibly challenging year in many regards, the goal of MDA remains the same as it has been for years – to build stronger communities and economies for Mississippians through new investment and job creation,” said Rounsaville. “Throughout 2021, the MDA team will continue working to grow advanced manufacturing, health care and aerospace. We will continue working to attract more high-tech companies to the state. These are the jobs of the future, and the state has already taken many proactive measures to ensure we have a workforce ready to fill these in-demand jobs of the future.” T&ID