Bullish on Mississippi’s Manufacturing Future

April 10th, 2015

Bullish on Mississippi’s Manufacturing Future

By Alan Turner, Mississippi Business Journal

Jay Moon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, proudly says that his family roots can be traced back to Virginia in the 1500’s. These days, his roots are firmly anchored in Mississippi.

“I’ve been here since Cliff Finch was Governor,” he said with a smile.

Jay, who holds a Master’s of Public Administration degree from the University of Georgia, has unquestionably made a major positive impact on Mississippi since the Cliff Finch days.

A Certified Economic Developer, he earned his laurels while serving as deputy director, chief operating officer, and director for international development with the Mississippi Development Authority, he led the effort to bring Nissan to Mississippi, a feat which was recognized by national media as the top development project of the year. But not one to rest on those laurels, he also helped to bring multiple other projects and companies to the state, and developed extensive experience in international markets including Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

During his tenure at MMA, Jay has continued to provide powerful leadership and support for the 2200 members of the association, and pursue many other opportunities, including the development of Momentum Mississippi, considered one of the most comprehensive improvements to Mississippi’s incentive offerings, some of which supported Mississippi companies such as Viking, Baxter, Northrop Grumman, and Howard Industries.

How does he view the current state of manufacturing in Mississippi, and what does he see for the future?

“Well, we lost quite a chunk of our base as a result of the financial crisis, just like everybody else. That was an unparalleled event,” he said. “But we see good things on the horizon for Mississippi, and still today, manufacturing accounts for a third of the jobs in Mississippi, either directly or indirectly We’re definitely considered a manufacturing-intensive state.”

Among those “good things”, he sees a steady trend in advancing technology among the manufacturing companies that consider Mississippi.

“I think onshoring is going to be a significant factor for us in coming years,” he suggested, referring to the trend of companies which have foreign factories choosing to relocate some of that manufacturing back to the United States. “Of course, it absolutely demands that we have the skilled and tech-savvy work force these companies need. No one can suggest that the old, ‘heavy manufacturing’ model will continue to be viable down the road.”

He believes that this points to a vital need for workforce development, improved technical education, and making young people aware of the opportunities. To that end, he is closely involved in a number of Mississippi’s workforce development initiatives.

“We’re well positioned here to expand our manufacturing base,” he suggested. “We have great resources, great port facilities, an advantageous geographic position with excellent land transportation options, and folks with great work ethics.”

In particular, he believes that 3D printing will revolutionize the manufacturing process.

“For these kinds of jobs, we have to improve our tech and community college educational opportunities,” he said. “Of course, all of that begins with raising the consciousness of young people about their career choices at an early age.”

With all of the encouraging activity that Jay and others are engaged in to help put Mississippi more firmly on the manufacturing map in coming years, what concerns and obstacles does he have?

“Well, aside from a concern that we won’t be able to deliver the workforce today’s companies are looking for, I’m also disturbed by the increasing level of federal government regulation. Sometimes, it seems like they’ve gone way too far in the regulating process.” He hopes for a new, more business-friendly focus from the Feds in coming years. “Obviously, that will depend to a large extent on who will be occupying the White House and the Legislature.”

Among other things, Jay sees many new opportunities that could come to Mississippi through the Gulf Coast. “The new Panama Canal is going to make a tremendous difference for us,” he said.

Asked about the Kemper energy project, Jay said that “we have supported that project from the beginning, and we continue to be high on the benefits it can deliver to Mississippi.” He and the MMA see Kemper as a great opportunity to deliver new technology to the state, supply the energy that will be important in coming years, all while utilizing an abundant Mississippi resource (lignite).

Along with other institutions, the MMA has asked reconsideration from the Mississippi Supreme Court on the whole rate issue.

“No one wants to see the ratepayers get hit with a sudden huge increase in their bills,” he said. “And I’m afraid that’s going to happen if we can’t get this issue resolved.”

All things considered, Jay Moon predicts a bright future for the Magnolia State in the coming decade, with new major projects on the drawing board, and many productive new jobs.

“That’s what’s going to enable our state to emerge as a force to be reckoned with down the road,” he said.

To view article on MBJ’s website, click here.