By Dennis Seid
One of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s main missions is economic development, and the utility company’s top executive is seeing firsthand what is happening across its footprint.
“Our job is to help attract and keep bring businesses here, and I want to know why people come here,” said TVA Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson. “I’m interesting in seeing what we can learn and what more we can do.”
In the past 18 months, more than 6,000 jobs have been created or retained in Northeast Mississippi, with capital investments totaling more than $1.4 billion.
While TVA isn’t directly responsible for those jobs and investment, it has played a key role in providing resources and infrastructure – namely cost-effective electricity – to help economic developers recruit and retain businesses.
Johnson tours the Valley three times a week.
On Wednesday, Johnson toured the Tecumseh manufacturing facility in Verona and the Yokohama Tire site in West Point.
At Tecumseh, Johnson toured the facility with general manager Joe Kulovitz and other company officials as they showed a new expansion. Last July, Tecumseh announced it was building its advanced commercial refrigeration compressor. The $10 million project, with $4 million coming from a low-interest loan from the Mississippi Development Authority and $600,000 in infrastructure and other improvements, could bring 150 jobs in the next five years.
Without MDA and TVA, the project would not have happened, Kulovitz told Johnson.
“We’re the only U.S. facility left, and it could have gone anywhere in the world,” he said. “But that assistance got the project here.”
In West Point, Yokohama is working on its $300 million commercial-tire manufacturing facility, which will initially employ 500 people. Three other phases could bring another $700 million investment and another 1,500 jobs.
Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi is expected to open next year.
“Good jobs are coming to Mississippi and it is vital that we keep job opportunities growing,” Johnson said. “The two companies I saw today are among the dozens that have put down roots in the Magnolia State in the past two years. TVA is proud to have played a role with our many partners in these successes.”