April 29, 2002
From an economic development recruitment standpoint, a new survey showing that 68,400 East Mississippians have the skills, education and experience to work in better jobs is good news. At the top of any prospect's list is the availability of workers. After all, no business can succeed for long without good workers.
On another level, the survey commissioned by the Mississippi Development Authority in all or parts of 15 counties and conducted by The Pathfinders of Dallas is a little troubling. It apparently was designed specifically to examine the employment pool within 65 miles of where Interstate 20 crosses the Scott and Rankin county lines and it shows that MDA is still pushing the site rejected by South Korean auto maker Hyundai. Hopefully, this will not be to the exclusion of other potential elsewhere in the state.
The survey, for example, included only parts of Lauderdale County, where another potential Hyundai site got scant consideration.
While the survey is interesting, it says MDA still needs to broaden its horizon as it courts other major manufacturing concerns.
Existing industries may also want to take note of the finding that nearly 50 percent of workers in the survey area said they would change jobs if they could make $14.33 an hour or less. Suffice it to say that should a major new manufacturing operation eventually choose to locate in this area, and should it offer average wages paid by, say, Nissan, of $20 an hour, competition for skilled workers will be keen.