The ability of folks to find work, earn and spend money makes economies prosper. Like no other time in our history, Mississippi is in the hunt for good jobs. As I’ve criss-crossed our state, I’ve seen three job areas where Mississippi is poised to excel: energy, aerospace and automotive.
Energy: Mississippi recently broke ground in Vicksburg on its first ethanol plant. In fact, it’s the first ethanol plant in the Southeast. We’re also moving forward with plans to expand the Port Gibson nuclear power plant, the Chevron Refinery at Pascagoula and to locate natural gas terminals on the coast. We’re in the forefront of biodiesel production, and Mississippians are even using new technology to extract oil from dormant oil wells. Oil once thought unreachable can now be taken from inactive wells, sometimes far exceeding the amount previously produced.
Couple all this with the fact that few states have Mississippi’s mix of four lanes, rivers, rails and sea ports to transport energy, and you see that the production of both traditional and renewable energy sources shows great promise for our state.
Aerospace: I recently traveled to Forest where Raytheon is expanding its facility to produce high-tech equipment for combat aircraft. This year we opened a new plant to manufacture unmanned aircraft at Moss Point. Eurocopter now produces helicopters at a new plant near Columbus. Lockheed Martin in Meridian, Eaton Aerospace in Jackson and Rolls Royce on the coast are aerospace companies expanding their presence in Mississippi. Airbus has committed to build an aircraft production facility in Mobile which will provide jobs throughout coastal Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
Even as I write this column, an international company, which I cannot name publicly, is looking at Mississippi and several other states as potential sites to manufacture its first small jet aircraft. There was a day when Mississippi would not even have been considered for such a project, that day is gone. Mississippi is in the hunt, and rest assured that our local, state and federal officials will aggressively promote Mississippi to this very reputable company.
Automotive: The automotive industry sparks a lot of interest because most of us drive cars, and we have opinions about them. Mississippi won the Nissan plant thanks to a concerted effort by state and federal leaders. Though Korean companies like Hyundai and Kia have located in our neighboring states, the southern automotive corridor is far from fully developed, and I’m going to make sure Mississippi remains very engaged in the competition for automotive jobs.
As I visited Meridian this week, workers at auto parts re-manufacturer Remy International and Nissan supplier Tower Automotive asked good, probing questions about Mississippi’s prospects for attracting more automotive jobs. These workers know that auto plants and their suppliers bring thousands of good jobs ,and they understand what this industrial sector could mean for their future and that of our entire state. I told them there is yet another outstanding Japanese auto manufacturer looking to invest in the southeast and that we’re working hard to ensure Mississippi gets every consideration.
By the way, I’ve advised executives at Ford and General Motors that for their own long-term survival, they should move more resources from the Rust Belt to places like the Pine Belt, Meridian, Tupelo and other outstanding southern communities, just as their Asian competition is doing. The residual costs of old labor agreements, old plants and antiquated supplier structures has taken a heavy toll on America’s once iconic and invulnerable “Big Three” automakers. It’s time they restructure and bring more jobs to our prosperous and promising southern automotive corridor.
Mississippi has demonstrated we can support a major auto plant, aircraft factories and the world’s most innovative energy technologies. Mississippi is all about jobs these days because we know that strong communities and fulfilling lives go hand in hand with the availability of quality jobs.
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