Portera to help locals fill Yokohama jobs

By The Associated Press

WEST POINT — Former University of Alabama Chancellor and Mississippi State University President Malcolm Portera begins work this month to ensure that locals get jobs at a tire plant being built in West Point, Miss.

The Commercial Dispatch says Portera’s new role will be to make sure that jobs at the Yokohama Tire Corporation are filled predominantly by people living in area.

He will work for Golden Triangle Development Link.

Yokohama is expected to begin operations in Mississippi in 2015. A memorandum of understanding between Mississippi and Yokohama requires the state to pay a penalty if Yokohama has to go outside the state to find qualified workers.

Link CEO Joe Max Higgins says Portera will work with programs at MSU and East Mississippi Community College to ensure there are qualified workers.

Some of the recruits will be engineers and accountants, Higgins said.

Portera is credited as being a key figure in luring a Nissan automobile manufacturing plant to Canton and a Mercedes Benz plant to Alabama.

A Clay County native, Portera led MSU from 1998-2001 before becoming UA Chancellor, where he served in that role until his retirement last year.

Higgins said Portera’s far-reaching connections will be instrumental in establishing and maintaining a healthy amount of qualified workers to fill the range of positions as more become available when additional phases of the plant are completed.

“When Yokohama announced, we started looking at workforce development and we sat down with him and said, ‘Would you be amenable to us using you coordinating the EMCC, the MSU and the high schools, making sure that we’re sending a pipeline or at least these places know what product they need to be putting out?’” Higgins said. “(Portera is) economic development and educational royalty in two states.”