BY: Steve Stackhouse-Kaelble

In many parts of the country, manufacturing is more of a fond memory than a reality. Not so in Mississippi, which is very much a state that makes things. “We are, as states go, still fairly manufacturing-intensive,” says Jay C. Moon, president and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association.

In particular, he says, about 12 percent of the Mississippi workforce is directly engaged in manufacturing, while another 2 or 3 percent have jobs indirectly tied to manufacturing. “We have a fairly strong manufacturing base,” Moon says. “What we’ve tried to do is make sure we have a fairly well-rounded manufacturing base.”

Among the hottest segments in Mississippi manufacturing right now is the automotive sector. David Rumbarger, CEO of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, has seen the growth firsthand, including the addition of Grammer Inc., a German-owned supplier of automotive interiors and seating systems for commercial vehicles. Last year the company picked a site in the Tupelo Lee Industrial Park South for a manufacturing facility, promising up to 650 new jobs.

Why this particular location? “It was the workforce,” Rumbarger says. “They made an extensive dive into the workforce to find the skills and abilities at the rates and terms they wanted to provide.” Indeed, for the first few hundred jobs, he says, there were more than 3,500 applicants.

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