EDITORIAL: New jobs

By NEMS Daily Journal

New jobs announcements within the past three weeks for manufacturing plants in Northeast Mississippi have added a projected $9.337 million in annual payroll impact, a figure based on the Mississippi Employment Security Commission’s statewide pay averages.
The payroll projection does not include any jobs that might be added at the Navistar Plant in West Point – the recipient of a $751 million defense contract for production of 1,050 advanced armored vehicles destined for service in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The additional jobs are either announced or firmly expected at MTD (107), Martinrea Automotive (50), both in Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park South; Max Homes (100) in Fulton; Townhouse and Jamco (25) in Smithville and Belmont; and Southern Motion’s 70 jobs in Pontotoc.
The recent employment growth announcements do not replace the thousands of jobs lost in the region’s economy since the recession started in December 2007, but it’s heartening that efforts to win new business and grow the existing work force remain a viable way to increase prosperity and profit.
It is significant and noteworthy that federal and state governments’ investments mix strongly in the formula for some of the jobs growth in industries.
While some scoff at the notion of the government’s role in the economy, the largest investment announcement last week was a $751 million contract from the Department of Defense for the Navistar plant in West Point. It was announced by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, ranking member of the Appropriations Committee and of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee.
The MTD jobs, while not officially confirmed by the company, were linked to a $300,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for a connector road, announced by U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, plus $1.2 million from the Mississippi Development Authority. More than $5 million in private funds will be invested by MTD.
In addition, a new program called Rapid Advanced Manufacturing Placement program, or RAMP, financed through $500,000 in federal “stimulus” (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) money will help manufacturers find qualified employees. The $500,000 program, which launches in March, will be implemented though a partnership involving Three Rivers Planning and Development District and other agencies.
Politicians in both parties can look at the long term history and see government partnering with the private sector, frequently solidifying enduring good jobs.
The backbone of a strong economy remains the private sector, and it includes major employers like military contractors and technology developers largely dependent on government contracts for the products they sell. Last week alone, $2.29 billion in defense contracts were awarded nationwide.
However, the best economy is one with a strong mix and balance.
Northeast Mississippi, despite the temporarily delayed Toyota assembly plant, is moving toward a manufacturing mix dependent on private, individual prosperity as much as the government’s requirements for materiel.
All the sectors of the economy will prosper best with a highly educated work force that can support and will attract the best-paying jobs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2008, 2 percent or less of people with doctoral or professional degrees were unemployed. The lowest education achievers even in that part of the recession were at almost 10 percent unemployment. The professional and doctoral degree holders made three times as much on average as workers with less than a high school diploma.
Across Northeast Mississippi, professional economic developers and civic leaders remain unrelenting in pushing more education for better jobs in a global economy.
The recession is disheartening for almost everyone, but the encouraging economic news like the jobs announcements of recent days proves that smart work and perseverance pay off in many different and tangible ways.