By Joe Rutherford
OXFORD – Gov. Phil Bryant will lead his administration’s first economic development mission outside the U.S. with a trip in September to Japan and South Korea, he told the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association annual meeting on Monday at the University of Mississippi.
David Rumbarger, CEO of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, said he will be on the trip. Bryant said in a brief press conference after his address that he hopes several Mississippi business executives can go on the development mission.
Similar missions were undertaken by former Govs. Haley Barbour and Ronnie Musgrove in pursuit of automotive industry investment.
A 4,000-employee Nissan plant, sought by Musgrove, opened in 2005 in Canton. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi began producing Corollas in October 2011 at its 2,000-employee plant in Union County near Blue Springs. Barbour heavily recruited Toyota.
Bryant said the plan includes meeting Toyota officials in Japan as a courtesy to reaffirm Mississippi’s thanks for the company’s investment and that of its suppliers, which separately employ 1,400 people.
Citing the aggressive development efforts of all contiguous states, plus Texas, Bryant said Mississippi cannot afford to ignore opportunities and developing potentially profitable relationships.
Seven years ago, Barbour made a development visit to South Korea, and spoke to Hyundai/Kia officials, the South Korean press reported.
Bryant also said he will discuss tourism development with Japanese officials, especially Japanese cultural attachment to Elvis Presley, whose Tupelo birthplace is a tourist magnet.