Domenico "Mimmo" Parisi, Ph.D., left, and Blake Wilson, right, presented the Nissan study in the State Capitol.
Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, left, and Blake Wilson presented the Nissan study in the State Capitol. Credit: Zachary Oren Smith, Mississippi Today

JACKSON — Since opening its plant in 2003, Nissan Canton has directly created 6,400 jobs, according to a study conducted by Mississippi State University’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center.

The economic ripple has created 25,000 jobs statewide, generated $2.9 billion annually to the state’s gross domestic product and contributed $2.6 billion in disposable income.

“We often run into people wondering if economic development is worth our time,” Blake Wilson, CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, said Thursday. “Could we compete nationally, internationally? Are we going to even receive an annual benefit from those businesses we do get? I think what we have seen here is that the best way of raising quality of life is bringing industry with good jobs.”

He spoke at a press conference at the Capitol organized by Move Mississippi Forward, a economic development advocacy group.

The study also found that since the vehicle assembly plant opened, populations in Madison, Leake and Rankin counties have increased significantly. Madison County, where the Nissan plant is located, experienced a 37 percent population increase between 2000 and 2015.

However, between 2000 and 2015, Holmes and Hinds counties lost a collective 11,000 residents.

Dr. Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, professor and executive director of the center that conducted the study, explained this is typical: “When you have a major industry like Nissan move into an area in the state, it is common to see population growth as people move in looking for jobs and shorter travel times.”

The study used Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) to consider the conditions before the plant moved in, using that as a baseline to see Nissan’s impact.

Nissan does not provide information on its employment numbers, so the study relied on publicly available information on employment at Nissan pulled from the State Auditor’s office and verified it against current and historical employment records from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

Because these numbers have to be estimated, there are no reliable breakdowns of the kinds of employment that the plant offers; there is no way to determine how many of these jobs are temporary positions filled by contractors or permanent positions employed directly by Nissan.

Mississippi State’s researchers used the U.S. Census Bureau’s Community Survey to show how Madison and Rankin counties’ median family incomes sit above the national median income of $65,443. Madison’s average family income is $75,673. Rankin’s average is $68,265. However, adjacent Hinds, Yazoo, Holmes, Attala, Leake and Scott counties’ median family incomes range from as high as $47,532 in Hinds to as low as $26,112 in Holmes.

Since many Mississippi counties struggle with consistently high poverty levels, the study’s findings on changes to the poverty rate were particularly hopeful. Both Madison and Rankin had poverty rates below state average. Though this correlates with Nissan’s opening, other growth factors also contribute to these high numbers in Madison and Rankin.

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