From Mississippi Development Guide 2021

The Southeast’s Automotive Industry Sweet Spot

Nissan’s Altima, Frontier and Titan models are produced at Nissan’s Canton Mississippi Vehicle Assembly plant.
Photo: Nissan


Large truck and bus tires began making their way from Continental Tires’s recently opened greenfield plant in Clinton, Mississippi, in October 2020 to customers throughout North America. The plant will produce around 750,000 tires annually. About 500 work at the facility currently, but the $1.4 billion project, when fully built out, will employ 2,500 in the next decade. They will join the tens of thousands of workers already employed in the automotive sector in Mississippi, including 5,000 at Nissan’s plant in Canton, where its Altima, Frontier, Titan and other models are built, and more than 2,000 at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi’s Blue Springs plant, where the Corolla model is produced.

Nearly 200 automotive suppliers in Mississippi employ about 26,000. Besides supplying Nissan, Toyota and engine maker PACCAR in Columbus, these suppliers work with dozens of out-of-state OEMS, including GM, Nissan and Volkswagen in Tennessee; Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai in Alabama; Kia in Georgia; and Toyota and GM in Texas.

Suppliers and OEMs benefit from such infrastructure assets as six Interstate highways, two deep water ports in the Gulf of Mexico, two international airports, and the Mississippi River and Tennessee River and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, among others. Mississippi is home to 30 railcar providers and five Class 1 railroads.

Mississippi State University is home to the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) and the CAVS-Extension facility in Canton. CAVS is a technology development center for engineering, research and development and technology transfer teams, working closely with Toyota, Nissan and their supply chains.

Engine Plant Marks 10 Years of Manufacturing

In December 2020, PACCAR celebrated its 10th year of manufacturing in Columbus. “Our excellent employees and the plant’s advanced manufacturing capabilities have created a great environment for building the industry’s best engines, noted Preston Feight, PACCAR chief executive officer.”

Planning for the engine plant started in 2006 when an international PACCAR team of managers and engineers from Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF were tasked with laying the groundwork for a state-of-the-art factory. PACCAR chose Columbus due to its proximity to important transportation logistics networks, talented people and the ability to partner with nearby educational institutions that complement the workforce.

Nearly 200 automotive suppliers in Mississippi employ about 26,000. 

A groundbreaking ceremony in 2007 marked the start of construction for the $400 million facility. The innovative factory design and industry-leading operations have resulted in many honors for manufacturing excellence and environmental impact over the last decade, such as zero-waste-to-landfill, and ISO 14000 environmental management and ISO 9001-TS quality management certifications. Additional investments in factory enhancements and production capacity have positioned the plant to meet engine demand over the next decade. The Columbus factory has produced more than 250,000 PACCAR MX-11 and MX-13 engines to date.

PACCAR established close ties with colleges in the area, including Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women and East Mississippi Community College to help develop a strong local pool of highly skilled employees. These relationships continue to flourish and provide mutual benefit. Not only does the PACCAR engine factory hire or offer internships to associates from surrounding colleges, but employees can also earn valuable training certifications and degrees to enhance their knowledge and skillsets.

“The level of commitment PACCAR engine factory employees have toward their work and their community is something that really resonates within the Peterbilt family and our customers. We would like to congratulate everyone at the Columbus engine factory for a decade of delivering high-quality PACCAR MX engines that benefit our customers in many ways,” said Jason Skoog, Peterbilt general manager and PACCAR vice president.

Armored Vehicles, Too

In August 2020, Armored vehicle manufacturing company CITE Armored announced plans to increase its presence in Mississippi by locating van production operations in Batesville. The $2.3 million investment will create 30 jobs. CITE Armored, a woman-owned company currently located in Holly Springs, manufactures and services armored cars, SWAT vehicles and supply vehicles for organizations throughout the U.S. and worldwide, including the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, the Iraq Ministry of Trade and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

The company is expanding to accommodate additional military contracts and is moving its armored van production to the former Serta building in Batesville while maintaining the production of its other armored vehicles in Holly Springs. “CITE is excited to be opening our second location in Batesville. We feel confident that Batesville will provide a strong strategic advantage in fulfilling our customer needs,” said CEO Teresa Hubbard. 

CITE Armored qualifies for the Advantage Jobs Rebate Program, which provides a rebate to eligible businesses that create new jobs that exceed the average annual wage of the state or county in which the company locates or expands. Panola County, the city of Batesville, the Panola Partnership and TVA also are assisting with the project.

“From the very first meeting it was apparent that CITE Armored was looking for a community that could supply a consistent skilled workforce,” said Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar. “The combination of the Concourse skills training center, the PreK-12 Spark program and our strong ACT WorkReady Community numbers put our location on top.”

Mark Arend
Editor Emmeritus of Site Selection magazine

Mark Arend

Mark Arend is editor emeritus of Site Selection, and previously served as editor in chief from 2001 to 2023. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.


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