By Bill Crawford
The Meridian Star
The peak in manufacturing jobs over the past 20 years in Mississippi occurred during the third year of Governor Kirk Fordice’s administration. In 1994 jobs in manufacturing industries averaged 261,000, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Since then, average annual jobs in manufacturing have trended down, with two rare exceptions.
In 1998, the third year of Fordice’s second term, average jobs in manufacturing ticked up from 241,800 to 245,500.
Then, in 2004, the first year of Governor Haley Barbour’s administration, average jobs in manufacturing increased from 179,000 to 179,600.
Governor Phil Bryant and his economic development team are on the verge of achieving another rare uptick in manufacturing jobs. Last year, jobs in manufacturing averaged the same as the prior year, 135,200. Not losing manufacturing jobs was a good accomplishment.
Even better is recent manufacturing job growth. Through June, average jobs in manufacturing totaled 136,300, up a total of 1,100.
"Economic development is the centerpiece of what we do," Bryant told a Neshoba County Fair audience. "It is the sun in our political universe. And everything else rotates around it: education, healthcare, transportation. We've got to have that growing dynamic economy, and we do."
Bryant says he has announced the creation of more than 7,200 new jobs and more than $1.1 billion in private sector investment. Many of those jobs are in Mississippi’s growing automotive sector. The Yokohama Tire Company project in West Point will bring 500 jobs with the potential for 2,000. The Nissan Motor Company expansion in Canton will add 800 jobs.
“We are producing results, and our economy has reached $100 billion for the first time in the state’s history,” Bryant told fairgoers. “This growth and recognitions the state has recently received are a result of the hard work that is taking place to move the state forward economically.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council placed Mississippi among the top 10 states for overall economic outlook for 2013, and the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity named Mississippi fifth in the nation for business startup activity in 2012. Area Development Magazine, an economic development publication, awarded Mississippi a second consecutive Silver Shovel Award for strong economic development performance.
Manufacturing jobs are important because they are a higher paying component of Mississippi’s “base economy.” Base economy components are those that bring money into the state. They consist of industries that produce exports (manufacturing, agriculture, technology), businesses that attract spending by out-of-state people (tourism, retirement, gaming, entertainment, recreation), and federal government transfer payments.
With production jobs in decline, Mississippi became more dependent on attracting out-of-state spending and transfer payments. Now, with transfer payments facing cuts, Mississippi needs its other base economy sectors to grow, especially manufacturing.
Bryant and his team are turning trends in the right direction.
Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.