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‘Buckle up’: Recent economic development in Mississippi has transformative potential, official says

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Recent landmark economic development projects, such as the $10 billion Amazon Web Services project in Madison County or the $1.9 billion EV battery plant in Marshall County, could be signals for a wave of economic evolution in Mississippi. 

Bill Cork, the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said that more than $60 billion and 32,000 jobs are in the pipeline, meaning that companies have already found a spot in the state and are being courted to make their investments final. Closed projects yet to be announced include finalized bids on over 40 projects, with $1.6 billion in capital investments and nearly 3,000 more jobs coming to Mississippi.  

The pace for economic growth in the state is moving at breakneck speed. Cork touted that since Republican Gov. Tate Reeves was elected, over $21 billion in capital investment has been landed and 19,000 jobs have been created.  

“It’s been an absolutely spectacular run,” Bill Cork said. “We’ve got momentum, and it hasn’t stopped. We’ve got to capitalize on it and it’s our time to do that.” 

Cork told The Gallo Show that Reeves and other economic authorities in Mississippi are aiming to attract projects that will offer residents jobs of “the future, not the past.” He explained that the skillsets required to power projects like manufacturing and data center operations are world class. 

“This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” Cork said. “These major industrial developments are incredibly advanced and sophisticated facilities.”  

With a cascade of potential new opportunities coming to the state, it highlights the lingering issue of Mississippi’s poor labor force participation rate. Top lawmakers have emphasized the need to address the problem, but Cork prefers to call it an opportunity instead of a barrier. He noted that it means there is an “available” work force who can fill the needs of the forthcoming projects. 

Projects like the new battery plant in Marshall County expand the need for more talented workers in Mississippi. That project alone will require the companies involved to bring on 2,000 skilled workers over the next three years. Cork said the solution is a long-term one, requiring a multi-generational investment in training and education from K-12 and onward. 

“We have almost $40 million that the legislature appropriated to help build the talent ecosystem around, not only the construction of the facilities, but the operations of them,” Cork said. “The legislature has really done a great job of focusing on investing in the people when it comes to these economic development projects.” 

More openings for skilled jobs mean higher paying careers for Mississippians, which Cork said has been one of the chief directives from Reeves to development authorities since he was elected in 2019. The expected incoming flood of investments has the potential to raise the tide for every citizen. 

“It’s unreal what’s going to happen to our state,” Cork concluded. “Amazon was the first, but all the big ones are in the market now. Everybody is looking here. This is real. We all better buckle up.” 

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