Hyundai: Was Mississippi ever in the running?
April 21, 2002
Pascagoula attorney Richard Scruggs had some interesting observations the other day on Mississippi's effort to recruit South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Company.
Scruggs, whose law firm has made a ton of money suing and settling with asbestos and tobacco businesses, may or may not have been the best private sector representative at a Feb. 5 meeting in Seoul. Still, he said the company's president, Dr. Kim Dong-jin, seemed to have his mind made up that his new North American plant would not be coming to Mississippi even before the meeting in Seoul with Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and other state officials. This was the meeting at which Musgrove offered Hyundai $50,000 a day in payments for any delays in developing the Pelahatchie site.
Scruggs also confirmed, as The Meridian Star reported last Sunday and other news organizations reported later in the week, that the Hyundai president had concerns about the Mississippi site to which he was consistently steered in Pelahatchie.
If Mississippi was never in the running, why did the state spend more than $386,000 trying to recruit Hyundai? The short answer is that the state has to try to attract large projects because of the good higher-paying jobs they produce.
Still, unsettling questions linger over the process that unfolded in this instance. Musgrove and other state officials are attempting to put the best face on the failed Hyundai recruitment. In a political context, failure is damaging and they have to find some cover.
In a larger context, however, we hope the Hyundai episode has taught Mississippi's economic development team a few lessons. All of the players government officials at all levels, private business leaders and, yes, even the interested public should be on the same page. Communication is essential. Cooperation is essential.