By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – A new grassroots economic development group introduced itself to the public Wednesday by releasing a report highlighting the positive impact of the Nissan automobile manufacturing plant in Canton 10 years after its opening.
It also suggested the automaker’s decision to come to the state was critical to the location in Mississippi of Toyota and others that followed.
Move Mississippi Forward presented the report, developed by the National Strategic Planning & Analysis Research Center at Mississippi State University, Wednesday at a state Capitol news conference.
Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, director of the MSU Research Center, cited numerous statistics to demonstrate the positive impact of the Nissan plant, but more importantly, he said, is the fact that Nissan locating in Mississippi proved the state could compete on a global basis.
“It really changed the image of the state,” Parisi said, adding that Nissan’s decision led to other advanced manufacturing companies siting plants in Mississippi, including Toyota at Blue Springs and Yokohama in West Point.
Move Mississippi Forward, a spinoff of the Mississippi Economic Council, is designed to be a conduit between state’s economic development efforts and the various local communities and to highlight successes, such as Nissan and the plants that followed it.
“Nissan and these other companies have provided an economic stimulus to our state, and at the same time improved the quality of life for thousands of Mississippians and their families and communities,” James Hull of Tupelo, who will serve as the executive director of Move Mississippi Forward, said in a news release.
The report comes 10 years after the opening of Nissan and after recent negative studies on the impact of Nissan from groups affiliated with the United Auto Workers looking to unionize the plant. The union-affliated study released earlier this year alleges that the state incentives to Nissan have been more than originally agreed to when luring the plant to the state in the early 2000s.
MEC President and CEO Blake Wilson said Move Mississippi Forward was not formed in response to the union activities, but he did say that he believes it is important to defend “a company that was invited to the state” if the company had a record that merited defending.
He said the academic study by Mississippi State highlights Nissan’s positive impact. It indicated Nissan is responsible for:
• The creation of 16,000 jobs in central Mississippi.
• An estimated $2.5 billion annual in state gross domestic product.
• An estimate of $1.2 billion annually in additional disposable income.
• An estimated $180 million annually in state and local tax revenue.
Parisi cited the plant as at least partially responsible for the boom in Madison County’s population and income level during the past 10 years.
“It is really quite remarkable,” he said.