GCN Guest Opinion
Mississippi's Economy is Changing
by: Sen. Trent Lott
Filed 2/04/07 GCN
question our economy in Mississippi and in America is changing, but it’s
still as strong as ever. There are pockets where older industries are
struggling and long-established jobs are leaving. The latest to feel this
change is West Point, where Sara Lee Corporation said this week it would
eliminate 1,200 jobs at the former Bryan Foods plant.
What can we as Mississippians do when this
sort of dramatic change happens? Well, instead of dwelling on yesterday,
we must work together toward tomorrow to replace lost jobs with better
ones. It can and, in fact, is being done.
I’ve encouraged Mississippi’s county and
city officials to erase boundaries and think regionally, market themselves
as interconnected areas and share each others’ strengths to offset any
weaknesses. The Golden Triangle, of which West Point is a part, is a
leader in this strategy, which has made it one of the state’s most
successful regions in new jobs creation. The new Eurocopter helicopter
assembly plant has begun production, and the area has attracted one of the
world’s modern steel mills. It has been considered, and could be again,
for an automobile-related factory.
Educational institutions like Mississippi
State, the Mississippi University for Women and the East Mississippi
Community College campus are training grounds many other communities envy
and potential employers value. All these are strengths already being
applied toward tomorrow’s jobs, helping to build a new economy.
In West Point, almost unnoticed last week,
was some potentially good news that could offset the sting of Sara Lee’s
closing. I’ve been working with a company there called Griffin Armor
which has teamed up with International Trucks to build a prototype vehicle
for our military – a vehicle capable of resisting mines and ambush attacks
like the threats our soldiers face in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On January 26, the Griffin/International
team was awarded a $34 million Army contract to build their prototype
which will be compared to those of several competitors. This process is
not complete, but if the Griffin/International team wins the contract,
these vehicles might be assembled in West Point, which could result in
several hundred skilled, good paying jobs there.
In another very significant development this
week, Mississippi’s largest private employer, Northrop Grumman Ingalls
Ship Systems, received a $238 million contract modification from the Navy
to continue designing the upcoming DD(X) destroyer. This will be an
entirely new class of destroyers – basically the stealth bomber of ships.
It has the potential to revolutionize Naval architecture and warfare,
ensuring that the Navy remains supreme and capable of projecting power
anywhere. It’s going to be built right here in Mississippi. We worked
energetically for this contract, and our skilled workers have proven they
can manufacture first-rate ships.
Mississippi’s economy is changing, but it
isn’t waning. We’re producing some of the world’s best products and
services. When the inevitable and sometimes very painful changes occur,
we must resist the urge to compare today to yesterday and instead work
together toward tomorrow. As we do, Mississippi’s best days will always
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building,
Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or