More world-class companies are choosing to locate in Mississippi

I was in the Golden Triangle last week to participate in grand opening ceremonies for Stark Aerospace, an Israeli-based defense firm with expertise in manufacturing unmanned aerial vehicles. This event provides yet another example of the success we have had in attracting world-class, high-tech companies to Mississippi in recent months.

Stark joins a growing list of firms bringing jobs to our state in the areas of aerospace, military hardware, computer software, steelmaking, as well as helicopter, truck and automobile manufacturing.

These companies could have located anywhere in the U.S., but increasingly Mississippi has gone toe-to-toe with the competition and won.

Toyota’s manufacturing facility will change the landscape not only around Lee, Pontotoc, and Union counties, but on a much wider scale as well.

In addition to 2,000 initial jobs, suppliers will soon choose locations near the plant. Toyota Boshoku’s decision to come to Itawamba County is the first of many announcements that will mean more jobs and economic activity.

General Electric will build aircraft engines in Batesville. Tishomingo County is home to defense aerospace firms ATK and Miltec manufacturing space launch structures and advanced hypersonic weaponry. In Tupelo General Atomics is making launch mechanisms for the next-generation of aircraft carriers.

Radiance Technologies and Global Technical Systems in Oxford are producing cutting-edge sensor systems for military reconnaissance work.

Activity in the Golden Triangle has been noteworthy with EADS-North America making helicopters for the military and other agencies, Aurora Flight Sciences building unmanned aerial vehicles, and SeverCorr beginning operations as one of the nation’s premier steel mills.

The Peterbilt and Kenworth truck maker Paccar will soon be open in Lowndes County, and International Military and Government in West Point is producing MRAP mine-resistant armored vehicles for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These wide-ranging enterprises have helped spark a renewed optimism throughout our state. I attended a recent Mississippi Economic Council meeting where Executive Director Blake Wilson shared remarkable polling data regarding Mississippians’ attitudes about the economy and the outlook for the future.

When asked if Mississippi was headed in the right direction, an overwhelming 95 percent of MEC business leaders responded yes.

Equally impressive was the fact that 61 percent of Mississippi voters shared this optimistic view. These numbers show a significant improvement from the same survey taken in 2004 when 76 percent of business leaders and 55 percent of the general public expressed that opinion.

These recent successes are a result of coordinated efforts from the public and private sectors. Governor Haley Barbour calls economic development “a team sport” and points to the work of local leaders and development officials, the Mississippi Development Authority, state lawmakers, and our Congressional delegation.

It may be a well-worn cliche to say that “Mississippi is open for business,” but that phrase has never been more accurate. We are reaching out to a national and international market to share details about a willing workforce, positive business climate, good transportation, great quality of life, university research opportunities, and job training options at our community colleges.

Now, more than ever, world-class companies are responding.

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