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Together Toward Tomorrow
Mississippi's Economy is Changing
by: Sen. Trent Lott       Filed 2/04/07 GCN

        Without 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 be ahead. 

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 Email

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