By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – A nearly $2 million grant will be used in a reshoring initiative aimed at bringing jobs back to Mississippi.
The three-year program is among 10 being launched nationwide as part of the “Make it in America Challenge” grant program sponsored by the U.S. Commerce Department and other agencies.
In Mississippi, the so-called Mississippi Reshoring Team looks to add at least 750 jobs and create more than $40 million in economic impact.
Leading the state program will be Mississippi State University, along with several partners, including The Reshoring Initiative, Three Rivers Planning & Development District, South Delta Planning & Development District, Itawamba Community College, East Mississippi Community College, Holmes Community College, Mississippi Delta Community College, MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension and the Franklin Furniture Insitute.
“This is an important collaborative effort in our state, because we’re talking about reshoring, or bringing back jobs, to our country,” said MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum. “But more importantly, we’re talking about bringing jobs back to Mississippi.”
Clay Walden, director of CAVS Extension, said the program has two main components.
The first is working with the community colleges on setting up 276 advanced manufacturing internships with companies across the state. It’s a program pioneered by ICC and East Mississippi Community College.
“These are internship opportunities that will be paid for through the grant and gives them valuable experience,” he said.
“The other component is developing our supply chain. In particular, what we’re going to do is work with larger manufacturers and identify the supply-chain gaps they have and see how we can involve more small- and medium-size enterprises in that supply chain.”
Bill Renick of Three Rivers said this listening-tour phase of the project is a crucial component to creating jobs.
“We’re going to go and talk to and listen to the needs of Mississippi companies, and through this process we’re going to find out how to bring back those jobs to the state,” he said.
Walden said great opportunities exist in the furniture industry, but said the automotive industry is another focus.
“We’re also going to talk to other advanced manufacturers like aerospace and shipbuilding,” he said.
The program also will conduct more than 30 technical assistance projects to connect small and medium size manufacturing enterprises with competitive technologies. Projects will be selected and prioritized based on their potential for economic growth, such as private and foreign investment and job creation and retention.
“This is a national trend we’re tapping into,” Walden said. “Companies are really taking a look at their cost structures and supply chains and realizing low cost isn’t their total cost. So we believe we can be the total-cost solution for a lot of companies in the state.”