April 17, 2009
JACKSON -- About 800 people are employed by Lowndes County''s four defense-related manufacturers, and they''re priming to hire more workers in the midst of the economic recession, said the county''s chief industrial recruiter.
"These guys are the ones looking to add jobs and add on to their buildings. It kind of insulates us somewhat from what''s happening in the economy," said Columbus-Lowndes Development Link President and CEO Joe Max Higgins.
Among the featured speakers Thursday at the Mississippi Economic Council''s annual meeting, Higgins spoke about economic opportunities being provided by military-support industries.
Lowndes County is home to four aerospace plants clustered around the Golden Triangle Regional Airport: American Eurocopter makes helicopters; Aurora Flight Sciences makes unmanned surveillance aircraft and helicopter parts; Stark Aerospace also makes unmanned planes; Nammo Talley makes shoulder-mounted launchers and rockets.
According to Higgins'' estimates, American Eurocopter has about 300 employees; Aurora: 300; Stark: 100; Nammo Talley: 100.
He noted three of the four are owned by foreign companies: American Eurocopter is a part of European Aeronautic Defense and Space; Stark is part of Israel Aerospace Industries; Nammo Talley is part of Norway-based Nammo Group.
With defense industries relying on getting contracts with the U.S. military, Higgins pointed to the importance of working with Mississippi''s congressional delegation to provide the funds for this.
A strong desire to help the military fight America''s enemies appears to be one reason defense industries are attracted to Lowndes County, Higgins said.
"Mississippians are probably more patriotic than most other states," he said. "People in the communities want them to succeed because they know they''re on a very important mission."
He projected Lowndes County could have about 1,000 or more aerospace-industry jobs in a few years. "That physically changes what we are and who we are," he said.
With the Golden Triangle Regional Airport''s east side now clustered with the aeronautics plants, he said, the west side can accommodate more as a water system is built and the airport runway expanded.