OUR OPINION: Tire plant to land where it’s needed

By NEMS Daily Journal

Whenever a major economic development project is announced, it’s accompanied by a list of state and local financial incentives designed to sweeten the pot.
That was the case last week when Gov. Phil Bryant and others revealed that Yokohama Tire Co. would build a manufacturing plant near West Point that will employ 500 in the first phase and eventually could provide up to 2,000 jobs.
Bryant called the Legislature into session, where $130 million in direct incentives as well as significant tax breaks were approved in a couple of hours. The incentives package also includes local tax abatements. Legislators approved the incentives overwhelmingly.
In a perfect world, public assistance to lure jobs-bearing companies wouldn’t be necessary. But the reality is that without such incentives, Mississippi would never land the kinds of projects that are producing well-paying, long-term jobs and, ultimately, spinoff business activity that will more than make up for the tax breaks provided.
It’s how the game is played. If you want to be in it, you have to offer incentives.
In Mississippi, success has begot success as one project after another demonstrates the state workforce’s capacity to deliver for the companies that choose to locate here. Toyota and before it Nissan are only two of the most obvious examples.
Few places needed the economic shot-in-the-arm the Japanese tiremaker will bring more than Clay County, whose unemployment rate in excess of 18 percent is the state’s highest. The governor, the Mississippi Development Authority and local officials who worked on the project can take special satisfaction in that.
The status of Cooper Tire, an employer of 1,300 at its Tupelo plant, arose during Friday’s special session when Lee County Reps. Steve Holland and Brian Aldridge unsuccessfully sought a sales tax break for Cooper similar to the one Yokohama will get. MDA said it’s aware of Cooper’s needs and there could be another special session to deal with them, which would represent a nod of appreciation and support to a valuable long-term employer.
Today, Clay County and the region will officially mark the Yokohama announcement with a public celebration in West Point. It should be a happy day for the county, the region and the state as whole.