Several of the new members introduced are from north Mississippi, which has been drawn fully into the what's called the Southern Automotive Corridor by the start of production and supplier manufacturing related to Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi - the Blue Springs plant of the world's second-largest automaker.
The meeting in the brand new Center for Manufacturing Excellence in the heart of the University of Mississippi campus, attracted a diverse crowd - academicians, executives of Nissan (which has a plant in Canton) and Toyota, economic development interests, utilities, and contractors. Gov. Phil Bryant was the keynote speaker.
Bryant, like two immediate predecessors, paid homage to the foreign automakers - Nissan and Toyota - who have invested billions in our state and added thousands of new jobs. Both committed following intense recruitment. Govs. Ronnie Musgrove and Haley Barbour both played big roles in making Mississippi's case - Musgrove with Nissan and Barbour with Toyota. Bryant announced he would lead a development delegation to Japan and South Korea in September.
Bryant made crystal clear his intention to oppose any attempts to unionize the two big automakers, calling auto manufacturing an industry susceptible to the negative consequences of high-cost, union-driven labor contracts.
However, Bryant didn't lay out any kind of master plan to oppose organized labor, but he said he would assist if asked by local development or civic leadership. His stance echoed that of some professional developers at the meeting who said raising the union issue to an exaggerated profile would be more harmful than helpful.
We believe the development mission Bryant announced holds great potential, especially in reinforcing Mississippi's official and private-sector continuing interest in forging mutually beneficial new-jobs developments with auto manufacturers and other strong industries from thriving industrialized nations of the Asian Pacific rim.
Bryant also said he would not hesitate to hire the professional services of former Gov. Barbour, who has returned to lobbying with the firm he founded in Washington, and complex public policy issues as a partner in the Butler Snow law firm, based in Jackson.
Bryant clearly recognizes the competition is ahead of Mississippi on some issues - or responds immediately when Mississippi holds an advantage.
Our state, regardless of who holds office, cannot lessen the intensity with which it seeks a fair share of prosperity.