By Alan Nunnelee
It’s all about jobs. As summer officially begins, the most important issue facing Mississippi is jobs. Unemployment numbers are languishing at 10.3 percent in Mississippi and 9.1 percent nationally – the longest period of sustained high employment since the Great Depression. The economy grew at a weak 1.8 percent last quarter, and economists agree that the costly stimulus failed to create jobs and only prolonged our economic recession.
When Americans needed a jobs plan, President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress gave them a spending plan. Now, after the historic November election, House Republicans have rolled out a plan for America’s job creators that will empower small business owners by reducing regulatory burdens, fixing the tax code, maximizing American energy production and paying down America’s unsustainable debt burden so that Washington, D.C., finally lives within its means.
If the federal government followed Mississippi’s lead, perhaps things would be different. Mississippi is a great example of how making difficult spending decisions at the state level can lead to an economic climate conducive to expansion and job creation. Companies from across the globe are investing in Mississippi because they are encouraged by our economic and political environment, as well as our talented workforce. New contract announcements, expansions, groundbreakings and openings have been abundant throughout north Mississippi this year.
One field leading the way is Mississippi’s defense sector. I’m always impressed by our state’s crucial role in supporting and assisting our nation’s defense operations – whether in aerospace technology, ammunition or military vehicle manufacturing.
Navistar Defense in West Point and Aurora Flight Sciences in Columbus are thriving operations. These civilian employees are helping defend freedom and saving lives.
In addition, Winchester Ammunition announced its expansion that will create 900 new jobs at its Oxford plant. This facility already performs final inspection and packing operations for the Department of Defense, and the new project will include the relocation of the Centerfire Pistol and Centerfire Rifle production lines.
Mississippi is also becoming a leader in renewable energy technologies. Twin Creeks Technologies, a Silicon Valley manufacturer, celebrated the opening of its Senatobia plant in May. The new plant will not only create 500 jobs, but bring innovative solar energy technology and industries with tremendous growth potential to the state of Mississippi.
A California-based company, Soladigm, saw the potential in Mississippi as well. The smart window developer announced plans to build a factory in Olive Branch and hire 300 employees. The company strives to improve energy efficiency through its tinted windows that can eliminate the need for blinds and reduce building heating and cooling costs by up to 25 percent.
Two biofuels companies also have invested in Mississippi. Texas-based KiOR celebrated the groundbreaking of their first Mississippi refinery in Columbus that will convert wood chips and other agricultural waste into alternative fuel. KiOR has committed to bring 1,000 direct and indirect jobs to the state. Canadian company, Enerkem, announced its landmark waste-to-biofuels project in Pontotoc, which will transform Northeast Mississippi’s municipal solid waste into ethanol.
These companies are working to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. This will keep sustainable energy jobs here in America, and prevent more dollars from being sent overseas. While there is no silver bullet answer to our energy needs, an all-of-the-above-approach including new technologies such as solar, wind and renewable energy resources, produced in Mississippi, will help our nation become energy independent and enhance our national security.
Mississippians should be encouraged by the positive economic development news and the federal government should continue to learn from the magnolia state.
Here, we know that in order to create jobs and put Americans back to work, we have to stop spending money we don’t have. Mississippi reigned in its budget and made significant spending cuts. Families across America have been making tough spending decisions as well, and the federal government must do the same.
Only by giving businesses the same certainty in Washington that they have found in Mississippi will our national economy grow. This is why I am working every day to bring spending down in Washington and help small business owners create jobs. Mississippi is proof that providing a stable government that partners with business will work to revive our great economy.
U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss., represents the 1st Congressional District. He resides in Tupelo. Contact him at nunnelee.house.gov.