By CARL SMITH
With the right investments and commitments, Mississippi Manufacturers Association President and CEO Jay C. Moon says Mississippi can position itself to revitalize its manufacturing industry as costs continue to rise overseas.
Moon will join other industry leaders and economic development specialists 10 a.m. Monday at Mississippi State University’s Franklin Center for Furniture Manufacturing and Management to discuss what he calls an “upcoming U.S. manufacturing renaissance” and the strategies surrounding the Reshoring Initiative.
Monday’s conference features keynote presentations from Moon, Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Brent Christensen, a number of MSU Extension officials and Harry Moser, president and founder of the Reshoring Initiative. Moser’s platform is dedicated to bringing back manufacturing jobs to the U.S. by assisting companies assess the total costs of offshoring jobs and shifting the offshoring-is-cheaper paradigm to one which touts local ownership of manufacturing. A full explanation of the initiative is available at http://www.reshorenow.org .
By 2015, Moon says rising costs in overseas production — higher wages and transportation fees — could lead to a rush of new manufacturing jobs in the U.S., thereby rebalancing the world’s economic playing field and boosting domestic job numbers.
“A lot of manufacturers now are rethinking the costs involved in overseas production versus the same production in America, particularly with China. There are changes going on in production dynamics that project by 2015, the cost differential for manufacturing in China, considering transportation fees and other factors, will be fairly negligible,” Moon said. “Manufacturers can look to the U.S. to build items and products that need to be closer to the consumer — items consumers do not want to wait six weeks to have transported back to America.”
With a boon in manufacturing jobs, Mississippi could add to the number of products stamped “Made in America” with proper investments in its educational systems. Manufacturing jobs require more high-tech skill sets than in previous decades, he said.
“I think Mississippi ranks fairly well compared to other states around the country. We’ve got a great labor force, but frankly we need to be able to train more and enhance our skill sets. We only have three million people in the state. With our dropout rate so high, we can’t afford to have anyone sitting on the sidelines,” he said. “I think we have an excellent opportunity to increase the quality of manufacturing in this state, the South and the U.S. as a whole. We have to have a strong effort over the next eight to nine years to train (the state’s workforce). We’re right where we need to be, but we cannot let our foot off the gas pedal.”
Continued infrastructure investments are also needed to make sure Mississippi-made products are shipped throughout the nation and the world, Moon said.
“Our roads, railways, ports and airports are all good, but we have to continue maintaining them,” he said. “Gulfport’s access to the Gulf of Mexico and its continued ability to service the world are absolutely essential for this state to take advantage of the situation.”
Even though Mississippi is handicapped with an ever-strained state budget, Moon says clear vision will help guide appropriate investments.
“Every state has money issues, but it all boils down to a question of priorities and a willingness to invest. You have to look down the line to determine how to invest for the future,” he said. “We can’t make improvements to education overnight — we have to invest for the future.
“We still have a number of issues we have to tackle as a country to take advantage of this situation, but our ability to take advantage of this reshoring particularly rests with ourselves and our willingness to make the appropriate changes to make our country conducive to manufacturing and competitive in the global market,” Moon added.