November 14, 2013 9:40:04 AM
JACKSON -- A new group called Move Mississippi Forward says it will promote the impact that automaking and advanced manufacturing has had on the state.
The group unveiled a report from a Mississippi State University professor on Wednesday that says Nissan Motor Co.'s Canton plant has created 16,000 jobs in surrounding areas since it opened in 2003. The report estimates that Nissan contributes $2.5 billion to the state's yearly economic output, which is about $100 billion overall.
"Today, it's definitely an economic driver for the state of Mississippi," Canton Municipal Utilities General Manager John Wallace, one of the group's co-chairs, said at a news conference at the state Capitol. The group's leaders described it as a community-driven group supporting economic development.
Several speakers spoke of the positive impact of Nissan and the auto industry in Mississippi.
"What we say about the state and what we hear others say about our state really does impact economic development," said Duane O'Neill, President and CEO of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership. "It's very important that we be mindful and put the right word out there."
As the plant has marked its 10th anniversary, it's faced fire from the United Auto Workers and the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan. The alliance is a group of ministers and politicians who want Nissan to allow union recruiting without company opposition.
A spokeswoman for the alliance had no immediate comment.
Move Mississippi Forward Executive Director James Hull of Tupelo said the group doesn't have a position on the United Autoworkers' attempt to unionize the plant.
"I'm trying to tell black folks in the Delta, people in the hills, people down in the Pine Belt that good jobs are coming to Mississippi through advanced auto manufacturing and we've got to be prepared to receive them," Hull said.
The Mississippi Economic Council, which opposes unionization, has provided support for creation of the new group.