Sunday, March 17, 2002

By Staff
MDA director takes issue with editorial on Hyundai
To the editor:
I read with interest your editorial ("Musgrove deserves the heat he's getting over Hyundai project," The Meridian Star, March 3) referencing the Hyundai project and Governor Musgrove's never ceasing effort to bring jobs to the citizens of Mississippi. I would like to address some specific items in your article, which I found to be inaccurate and unjustified.
Each of these inaccuracies is discussed below but for the record, let me explain the basics of Economic Development 101. The client drives the project, not a development agency or any politician. Once the client has established the parameters surrounding the project, then the development agency responds.
Next, the development agency and community representatives present their best information regarding the site location, state and local taxes and incentives, labor and workforce data, and other requested information. The state usually leads this effort in partnership with a local community.
And lastly, we hold this information in confidence to protect the client. If and when it is necessary to get politicians involved at the state level, we do. If and when it is necessary to get politicians involved at the federal level, we do. Otherwise, the Mississippi Development Authority directs the partnership between the client and community. I find it odd and irresponsible that not once did you contact our office to obtain or substantiate any information regarding the Hyundai project but rather relied on other "outside" sources.
First, you state that "Governor Musgrove is taking a lot of political heat." If taking "heat" for landing on the short list for a second billion-dollar plant in Mississippi, in less than two years, is the kind of "heat" you are talking about, then we're proud to have been in the proverbial kitchen.
Your second point regarding the Pelahatchie site is also unfounded. At the Mississippi Development Authority and other successful economic development organizations, I have learned to be "client driven" and to "listen" to the clients' needs. Hyundai was shown over nine different sites including the Pelahatchie site. Each time, Hyundai, the client, continued to select the Pelahatchie site despite offers to provide a variety of sites in a variety of locations throughout the state. Your comments in this regard are highly inaccurate.
Your next point and perhaps the most damaging point to the citizens of Mississippi, is your statement that "Hyundai had serious reservations about finding highly-skilled workers in such a narrow geographical area in Mississippi," once again, is erroneous. As the lead economic development agency for the state, involved with the recruitment of Hyundai, I can assure you that Hyundai officials have never stated that this was a reason for elimination.
As a matter of common sense, these issues would have been discussed long before Mississippi even reached consideration as one of FOUR states being considered for another billion-dollar investment. Note, please, that we were one of FOUR states, not 50 states, under consideration. Also, there were initially 51 sites nationwide under consideration. We were one of the final four. Landing billion dollar projects is every economic developer's dream but they don't happen every day.
Next, you state with obvious knowledge that the site had soil problems. The expanded site had no such issues related to soil or clay problems. Also, as a testament to the Governor and the Mississippi Development Authority, while soil issues have been a factor in some cases such as the Nissan site, I remind you that potential soil concerns were completely eliminated through engineering solutions. In addition, the Nissan site pad was completed in record time, prior to the deadline given by Nissan, and under budget despite experiencing the wettest winter season in Mississippi's history.
You continue by saying that the Governor went out of his way to "rebuff other areas of the state." As mentioned earlier, nine sites were shown to the client and the client made the choices. The Governor, myself and other team members presented every site as equally important.
For the record, Mississippi is thrilled that we landed Nissan and have attracted over $1 billion in investment in the last 16 months. We're also thrilled to have been one of four states under consideration for another billion-dollar plant. All projects, whether they are 25 job projects or 2,500 job projects, are important to the Governor, the Mississippi Development Authority, and most importantly, the citizens of Mississippi.
As an editor, not a site selection consultant or an economic developer, or someone involved in the recruitment of Nissan or Hyundai, you take the liberty of proposed knowledge of the issues surrounding them. In the future, we hope you will seek confirmation of your information by those people working directly on the recruitment projects.
Robert J. Rohrlack Jr., CED
Executive Director
Mississippi Development Authority
Jackson
Editor's note: For the record, last week we asked Mr. Rohrlack for additional details on Gov. Musgrove's and MDA's roles in recruitment of the Hyundai project. As yet, we have received no response. We stand by our editorial.

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