Bryan Davis, reporter with the Birmingham Business Journal, contributed to this report.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.–The automotive industry may indeed be the manufacturing future of Mississippi, with Yokohama Tire on the way in West Point and with efforts to lure more auto manufacturers to the Delta with worker training programs. Seeing that as the future, Gov. Phil Bryant called Friday for the formation of an organization that would promote auto manufacturing across the south.
Bryant spoke in Birmingham at the Southern Automotive Conference. He called for the formation of the “Southern Automotive Compact”, that would be a corporation, with an executive director, which would be responsible for bringing more auto plants and suppliers, in the vein of Nissan, to Mississippi and its neighbors.
“You have the resources come together. You find an executive director with zeal,” Bryant said during a panel discussion, following the preview of a study conducted by the Center for Automobile Research focused on where the South stands in the global competition for manufacturing investment. “You put that individual in there, and his or her job is to make sure there is a regional approach to the automobile industry.”
Bryant even offered a suggestion for the alliance’s headquarters.
“Oh, by the way, Mississippi would be glad to host the headquarters for the Southern automobile compact corporation,” Bryant said. “I’ve got a perfect building near Canton, Miss. that it can fit into.”
Bryant’s comments came after the previously mentioned report, which surveyed a dozen auto manufacturing sites across the Southeast, noted the need for more collaboration between the Southern states to remain strong competitors in the global economy.
The report cited Mexico as the South’s number one competitor.
In 2013, Mexico outpaced the South’s automotive investment total three-to-one with $1.5 billion to the South’s half billion dollars in investments.
“That type of organization, a compact although not easy to put together, a formal structure that is managed by the states, I believe is what we are going to need and what we must do if we are going to compete globally,” Bryant said.
Alabama Commerce Sec. Greg Canfield told the Birmingham Business Journal that interconnecting the universities that are already serving as research hubs for the automobile industry is key.
“We just have to set aside, as we’ve done in the past, the competitive aspects where we are going to go head-to-head and find those areas where we can promote the region both from a marketing perspective and promote it internally,” Canfield said.
Bryant, whose state has 15 community colleges in operation, said utilizing the leadership at those institutions would be key in the success of the regional organization.