When Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant spoke at Mississippi State University's 2015 Manufacturing Summit on Wednesday [March 18], he emphasized the Magnolia State is fostering a positive environment for manufacturers.
"We are competing with the fastest growing states in manufacturing," Bryant said. "We already have almost 40,000 working in the manufacturing industry, but what if we had 80,000? It's possible."
The state's manufacturing exports have increased by 380 percent over the past decade, Bryant said at the university's Franklin Furniture Institute. However, he still feels a sense of urgency to increase economic development. He emphasized the importance of training workers to use the latest tools and technology so the state will remain competitive.
"Volume is about where we are and where we're headed," Bryant said. "We'll bring this future to Mississippi."
Another featured speaker was Hal Sirkin, senior partner and managing director of the Chicago-based Boston Consulting Group. Like Bryant and the other featured guests, his presentation focused on the summit's theme, "Focus on the Future."
"We're at the beginning of a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S.," Sirkin said. "The U.S. consumer and the nation's low-cost productivity make the U.S. more appealing than other developing economies."
Sirkin said, in July 2013, 53 percent of manufacturing companies were considering or planning to reshore—the organized process of returning well-paying manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
Former MSU President Malcolm A. Portera joined the governor and Sirkin in addressing the reshoring issue. The West Point native said the trend toward reshoring businesses in the U.S. is extending to Mississippi.
"The Mississippi business climate is strong and ranks in the top 10 in Area Development magazine," Portera said. "We need to recognize that manufacturers are our wealth creators in this state."
MSU has a long-standing tradition of assisting manufacturers, said David Shaw, vice president of research and economic development at the university.
"We're driving economic development and manufacturing excellence here at Mississippi State," he said. "We want to be sure that we're educating young people to be employable."
Chad Miller, director of the Center for Logistics, Trade and Transportation at University of Southern Mississippi, led a panel discussion about the future of logistics and transportation in manufacturing. Panelists included Bryan Hunt, Seacor AMH (America's Marine Highway) LLC; Steve Puryear, with MSU's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems Extension; and Dan Pallme, of the University of Memphis' Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute.
Miller emphasized the future of manufacturing in the U.S. and in Mississippi is directly tied to intermodal transportation. Manufacturers need to use a variety of transit, including truck, rail and water, to export goods, he said.
Additionally, Bill Perdue, vice president of regulatory affairs at American Home Furnishings Alliance, shared the latest regulations furniture manufacturers must meet to remain competitive nationally.
The fifth annual Manufacturing Summit, held by MSU and AHFA, was sponsored by Mississippi Manufacturers Association, MSU Extension Service, MSU Franklin Furniture Institute, MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center and the Rural Jobs Accelerator Grant Program.