Manufacturers head supports workforce, dropout efforts

Economic recovery
not seen till late next year.
By Mack Spencer
PITTSBORO – Mississippi Manufacturers Association head Jay Moon is adding his voice to the call: The key to keeping and growing quality, high-paying jobs lies in education and workforce development.
Combating the state’s high dropout rate and improving the job training available at the state’s community colleges will go a long way achieving that jobs goal.
“We can’t compete for low-skill, low-wage jobs, and we don’t want to,” MMA leader Jay Moon told a small crowd of Calhoun Countians last week. “We want high-skill, high-wage jobs, and need workforce development to accomplish that.
“Workforce development is our most critical issue,” he said. “We need our students to graduate, and we need to send them to the community colleges.”
Moon boosted regionalism as a mechanism to improve prospects for industrial recruitment.
The PUL Alliance of Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties, which lured Toyota to Blue Springs, is one example of the regionalism Moon suggested. Tishomingo, Alcorn and Prentiss counties recently banded together in a similar organization, called TAP.
The Golden Triangle counties and cities – Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties, and the cities of Columbus, Starkville and West Point – joined in a looser group to lure such industries as Paccar, Severcorr and American Eurocopter.
“You need to reach beyond your city limits to neighboring towns, and beyond county lines, and put your assets together to market what you have to offer,” Moon said.
“If businesses can locate anywhere, why should they locate here? … You need to package and market yourselves better to the world.”
Moon said he couldn’t see the economy beginning to turn around before mid- to late 2010. At that, he said businesses are slower to rehire workers as recessions end, meaning unemployment may continue at high levels beyond that point.
The CEO cautioned that several issues going before Congress could adversely affect manufacturing interests nationwide.
The Employee Free Choice Act, also known as the “card check” bill, would make joining unions easier. Workers could sign a card rather than having an election. Moon claimed workers could be pressured to sign cards even if they didn’t want to join a union.
Moon also decried “cap-and-trade,” which would require carbon dioxide emitters to buy licenses for the right to continue emitting carbon dioxide. He said the cost of energy would likely rise if cap-and-trade were to be enacted.
MMA’s director of governmental affairs John Baas summarized the organization’s positions on bills currently before the state Legislature, including:
n supporting elimination of the inventory and franchise taxes.
n reducing sales tax on energy and replacement parts for manufacturers.
n exempting pollution control equipment from ad valorem taxes.
n defending right-to-work.
n opposing creation of a state minimum wage.
n supporting a one-week waiting period before collecting unemployment.
n opposing allowing school superintendents to collect union dues from teachers.


Mack Spencer

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