By Dr. Scott Alsobrooks, PRCC
The Picayune Item
A recent headline in the Clarion Ledger (http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20130109 /OPINION/ 301090012/Nissan-Canton-marks-10-years) recounts the 10 years of progress encountered by Canton, Miss. and the surrounding area, since the announcement that Nissan would build a large automotive manufacturing plant bordering Interstate 55 back in 2003. The author, Dan Bednarzyk who is Plant Manager for the Canton Plant, cites several outstanding statistics marking the renaissance of the area.
Included in these statistics is the fact that 100,000 people applied for the first 5,000 jobs that Nissan posted. With the build-up of the local supplier network needed to manufacture assemblies and parts that the automobiles, a total of 7,000 direct jobs have been created between Nissan and these supplier companies. While Nissan began manufacturing only the Quest, the plant has now expanded to seven models, including the Altima. The employee base of Nissan has donated more than $7 million to charitable organizations to support noble causes.
A quick check of Nissan’s website (http://nissannews.com/en-US/nissan/usa/channels/Plant-Fact-Sheets/releases/dea8fdc6-4a90-4646-93d8-4f769268bcec) shows the Canton facility sits on 1,400 acres and contains 4.2 million square feet of manufacturing space. The current annual payroll is approximately $200 million.
Obviously, many hours of preparation were necessary by community and state leaders to prepare an industrial site suitable for such a large investment by Nissan. Nissan has invested $2.06 billion in the Canton site. The land that the plant sits on had to be analyzed for suitable soil characteristics; environmental factors that could inhibit construction such as the existence of endangered animals were studied; the availability of needed resources such as natural gas and electricity was analyzed; and the characteristics of the of the local, available workforce were determined.Many other factors were considered, this is just to mention a few. In the end, the local community and state had to make a financial investment to underwrite the work to be done before Nissan would even consider making such a huge investment in Canton.
It is commendable that the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors has commissioned a study of a potential super site in Pearl River County. The 2,430 acres of land under analysis sits in a most strategically advantageous position along Interstate 59 and bordering the Norfolk Southern Mainline Railroad. Research already conducted indicates that the area within a 60 mile radius contains an available workforce in excess of 350,000 candidates between the ages of 18 and 65.
As the old saying goes, “hope is not a strategy.”Investing in a site analysis study and developing a marketing strategy for the site for economic development purposes is a strategy for improving the local community. It does not take an expert to understand that Pearl River County has some geographic advantages; however the citizens of the county cannot capitalize from these advantages without an upfront investment. By commissioning this study, Pearl River County leaders are investing in the future of our youth. Without good jobs, our ambitious youth will be forced to commute or move elsewhere to meet their career goals.