At a simultaneous press conference yesterday in Tupelo and here in Washington at the National Press Club, Toyota announced its plans to build a $1.3 billion, 2,000-employee assembly plant in Northern Mississippi, an enormous project that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour rightly called, “the jewel in the crown of economic development.” It will be Toyota’s eight North American assembly plant. Barbour also noted that some 2,000 construction jobs will be needed to build this massive plant. It will be completed by 2010, after which time Toyota expects 150,000 Highlanders to be rolling off the line annually.
Yesterday’s event had the understandable feel of a great celebration. All the local politicos and economic development were present at the local (Tupelo) High School auditorium. This included Gov. Barbour, the Lieutenant Governor, Sen. Trent Lott and Rep. Roger Wicker. In Washington was Sen. Thad Cochran, Commerce Undersecretary Frank Lavin, Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily De Rocco and our own fearless leader, NAM President John Engler. Said Lavin, “Haley (Barbour) deserves the Nobel Prize for job creation.” Gov. Engler noted that the announcement proved that there is still a bright future for manufacturing, and noting that this sent a signal that the USA is “open for business” in the form of investment from other states and other countries as well.
As the National Governors Association annual winter meeting concluded here in Washington yesterday, Engler quipped, “Haley, there are 49 Governors here for the NGA meeting, and every one would kill to be where you are today.” He’s right about that, as this announcement came after years of jockeying by scores of states for this enormous investment.
Those who saw Scott County, Kentucky (as we did) before the Toyota plant started there in the 80’s — and who has seen it since — can attest to the enormous positive impact of manufacturing on a community and a state. We’ve noted in this space the impact of some 800 jobs outside Washington DC at Micron Technology. It is yet another illustration of the great economic power and prosperity that manufacturing brings.
Haley Barbour, as we noted in our press release, deserves a lot of credit for creating a climate that will attract business (more on that later). Every other Governor should be watching closely and doing what they can to attract manufacturing jobs to their states. They do that by creating a good tax and legal climate and by making sure they have schools that can provide a ready workforce and an infrastructure that can deliver the goods. Sounds easy, but it’s not. All too often, states heavily tax and regulate business while welcoming the trial bar. Those states can only look on as states like Mississippi welcome new investment.
So yes, score one more for globalization and the prosperity it brings. This is yet another reminder that globalization is a two-way street.
There is indeed a bright future for manufacturing in America. That future began yesterday in Blue Springs, Mississippi.
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