Manufacturing in State of the State Addresses: Mississippi

Given the state of Mississippi’s record in creating an economic climate that attracts manufacturers and encourages their expansion, it comes as no surprise that Gov. Haley Barbour paid great attention to manufacturing in his final State of the State address delivered Tuesday.

The Republican governor also did an excellent job in linking economic growth to education and workforce development, highlighting the state’s new Department of Employment Security, the establishment of the Workforce Investment Board and the Workforce Enhancement Training or WET Fund. From the text:

Now, every year, the WET fund puts about $20 million into workforce development and skills training at our 15 community colleges, which do a great job. A study of graduates of WET-fund financed programs show they make $4,300 more per year than before that training, and our improved, skilled workforce as been a reason companies like Toyota, GE Aviation, PACCAR, Severstal and a long list of very hightech energy companies have come to Mississippi.

Coupled with workforce quality, the State has focused on attracting advanced manufacturing with advanced materials. We’ve targeted aerospace, automotive and energy, as well as service sectors. We’ve also beefed up our efforts to help existing businesses.

The results include a 27 percent increase in personal per capita income despite the recession. This is the 15th highest increase in the country over this six-year period.

The Governor pointed to specific examples of investment and hiring created by manufacturers taking advantage of Mississippi’s pro-business climate.

Last week you started this session by funding a loan for Stion, a cutting-edge, low-cost manufacturer of thin film solar panels, which will build these panels in Hattiesburg, investing $500 million and employing 1,000 people within six years. I applaud committee chairs Senator Dean Kirby and Representative Percy Watson on that. We all know a big job creation project is a great way to start a session.

The national recession notwithstanding, job creation will pick up in our state this year. As evidence of
that, in the first three quarters of 2010, Mississippi saw more new jobs and investment than were
announced in all of 2009. Toyota and its suppliers have stepped up hiring. GE Aviation, EADS and
PACCAR are adding employees, while new companies like Twin Creek Technologies in Southaven and
Schulz in Tunica will be operational this year. Nissan, which had an outstanding year in 2010, is also
ramping up, including introduction of its new light commercial vehicle.

How is that Mississippi can achieve such a record of success?

[Our] goal has to be to grow our economy faster than the nation as a whole, and we can do it. We have to focus on our advantages: low taxes, a friendly business climate, rational regulation, abundant natural resources and especially a first rate, affordable work force. And we’re committed to continuous improvement of that great workforce.

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