BUSINESS CLIMATE OVERVIEW
From Mississippi Development Guide 2023
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Flipping the Switch in Mississippi

Proactive change leads the state to win $20 billion in deals in four years.

BUSINESS CLIMATE OVERVIEW
The AWS groundbreaking ceremony on May 20 in Madison County, Mississippi.
Photo courtesy of MDA

by RON STARNER
I

f you’re looking for a place to grow your business, the folks at the Mississippi Development Authority have a message for you. It is simple and direct: Come here, and we will show you a place that offers plentiful labor with a diverse set of skills; a plethora of available sites in low-cost locations; and a quick and easy path to business set-up.

If that sounds too good to be true, you might want to talk to the leadership team at Amazon. Earlier this year, that team announced it will make the largest capital investment in state history in Madison County in Central Mississippi near the state capital of Jackson.

At $10 billion and 1,000 jobs, this twin data center campus project will be unlike anything the state has witnessed; and it is poised to have a record-setting economic impact.

If you want to know how this deal happened, it helps to understand the business climate of Mississippi. Since his election to the Governor’s Office in 2019, Reeves has transformed Mississippi from a sleepy Southern state into an economic juggernaut that is firing on all cylinders. He did it by lowering taxes, cutting red tape, investing into industrial sites, overhauling economic development leadership, and getting personally involved in recruiting companies large and small to the Magnolia State.
Just days before the Amazon Web Services announcement in late January, Reeves welcomed another game-changer to Mississippi: a joint venture between Accelera by Cummins; Daimler Trucks & Buses; and PACCAR. This $1.9 billion investment will build an advanced battery cell factory in Marshall County and create 2,000 jobs. At an average annual wage of $66,000, these jobs will pay almost $20,000 more than the current average annual salary in the state.

People who follow Mississippi closely say that Gov. Reeves is doing all the right things. Jay Garner, president and CEO of Garner Economics in Atlanta, says, “I really like Mississippi.

This current governor is excellent, and Bill Cork is doing an outstanding job as the executive director of MDA. The local economic development professionals are fantastic. They are doing a great job in creating product. They continue to enhance their public image, so I continue to be bullish on Mississippi.”

Rodger Wehner SpeakingRoger Wehner, economic development director for Amazon Web Services, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned $10 billion AWS data center investment in Madison County. At top right is a rendering of one of the facilities at the campus site in Central Mississippi.
Photo courtesy of MDA; rendering courtesy of AWS

‘Economic Development is a Team Sport’

For another perspective on Mississippi’s business climate, I turned to Haley Fisackerly, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi, the state’s largest electric utility. Fisackerly and his team at Entergy courted Amazon for years and played a leading role in winning the deal. He said that an often-overlooked aspect of Mississippi helped swing the pendulum in the state’s favor: the collaboration that occurs at all levels of government in the state.

“The Legislature and the governor and the Mississippi Public Utilities Commission all came together and put their political differences aside,” says Fisackerly. “They realized that this was a generational opportunity for Mississippi.”

He says that “economic development is a team sport here. This is a state that passed legislation unanimously in six hours to bring this project. That says a lot. You must have strong stakeholder engagement strategies to make a deal like this happen. Today, people don’t slow down enough to listen and to learn. We sat back and watched and listened.”

The fruit of that patience came in the form of a $1.9 billion battery cell factory in Marshall County and $10 billion in data centers in Madison County. From 2020 to 2024, MDA and its local partners have landed more than $20 billion in investment projects statewide.

Fisackerly says the state is just getting warmed up. “Wins like this bring attention to us,” he notes, adding that more deals are in the works.

In other words, fasten your seatbelts. The ride through the Magnolia State is about to get even more interesting, fast-paced and fun. 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.

  





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