From Mississippi Development Guide 2023

Jackson Is RISING to the Challenge

The old and new join forces in Mississippi’s capital city.


hen Amazon broke ground on its $10 billion data center project outside Jackson, Mississippi, the occasion represented a coming out of sorts for a tradition-rich city that’s embracing technology and innovation while remaining true to its roots.

“There’s a lot of history here and we do embrace it,” says Jeff Rent, president and CEO of the Greater Jackson Chamber. “But we’re trying to show people that Greater Jackson is moving forward. We’re going to be a tech leader in no time,” Rent predicts.

As Mississippi’s capital and largest city, Jackson anchors a seven-county region that boasts a diverse and expanding economy steeped in health care, government, education and manufacturing. 

“The diversification of our economy has helped us weather economic downturns,” Rent says. “Having the seat of government here, being strong in manufacturing and strong in health care are all significant assets. We have financial institutions that are helping to drive the tech sector, and we’re a college town. By not having all our eggs in one basket, we’re not exactly recession-proof, but it does help to make us quite resilient.”

It’s a sign of that regional resilience that Nissan has positioned its Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant, which employs 5,000 people in thriving Madison County, for a key role in the automaker’s transition to electric vehicles.

“Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant will become a center for U.S. EV production,” the company said in a statement announcing a $500 million investment to enable two all-new EV models. Nissan Canton has manufactured more than 5 million vehicles since it launched operations in 2003, and the company’s total investment in the plant now eclipses $4 billion. This latest planned investment, now on a slightly delayed timeline due to market conditions, includes the upskilling of some 2,000 jobs at the massive facility.

“The power of Nissan Canton is rooted in its employees, who will take us to new heights — continuing to drive the EV revolution for our company,” said David Sliger, Nissan’s local vice president for manufacturing.

A Force for Good Health

The health care sector is one of Greater Jackson’s biggest employers, offering high-paying jobs while attracting related industries and establishing Jackson as the state’s “go-to” for wellness and medical education. St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson is a major health care provider known for its heart and vascular care, cancer treatment, women’s services and orthopedics. Merit Health Network operates hospitals and clinics throughout the region, including Jackson’s Merit Health Central. G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center, named for the legendary Mississippian who served 30 years in the U.S. Congress, helps to meet the unique needs of veterans in Greater Jackson and beyond. 

But the star of this health care firmament is The University of Mississippi Medical Center. UMMC boasts 10,000 employees, making it the region’s top employer and one of the largest employers in the state. Its $2 billion budget represents about 10% of the Metro Jackson economy. From medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to food services and maintenance, the economic ripple effect of UMMC’s operations supports a wide array of local enterprises.

Duling HallDuling Hall is one of Fondren’s highlights.
Photo courtesy of Visit Jackson

As Mississippi’s only academic medical center, UMMC includes six health science schools: medicine, nursing, dentistry, health-related professions, graduate studies and population health. Enrollment in all programs is more than 3,000 students. In May, 765 graduates received diplomas at UMMC’s 68th annual commencement.

University Physicians, the faculty group practice of the School of Medicine, includes about 700 doctors, many of them among leaders in their field, who care for patients in the hospitals and clinics on campus, around the Jackson metro area and in outreach clinics around the state. UMMC is actively involved in addressing health disparities through targeted programs and partnerships. Established in 2014, UMMC’s Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities (MEWI) is dedicated to advancing health equity through community engagement, informing public policy, cultivating collaborations, and enhancing research and workforce development.

“The City With Soul”

Jackson’s bustling international airport — a quick flight from the global hubs of Dallas, Atlanta and Charlotte — is named in honor of the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who served as Mississippi field secretary for the NAACP until his tragic murder in 1963. Dedicated as both an unsparing documentation of a troubled yet inspiring past, and as an instrument for education, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum — funded by $20 million from the Mississippi Legislature — opened in 2017. The museum features interactive exhibits, oral histories and artifacts that chronicle the struggles and triumphs of the civil rights movement.

“The heart of the museum,” reads a description by Visit Jackson, the city’s dynamic tourism and cultural organization, “is the third gallery — a central space lit by a dramatic light sculpture that plays the museum’s theme song, ‘This Little Light of Mine’ — highlighting people who laid down their lives for the Movement. As more visitors gather and interact with the sculpture, adding their own ‘light,’ it shines brighter and brighter as the music grows stronger.”

Mississippi’s rich artistic legacy takes center stage at the Mississippi Museum of Art, which features an extensive collection of American art with a special emphasis on works by Mississippians. The Eudora Welty House & Garden, a National Historic Landmark, salutes the life and bountiful gardens of one of Mississippi’s many esteemed authors.

The hopping, easy-going Fondren District is a testament to Jackson’s collective effort to re-invent itself. Once seemingly in decline, Fondren has evolved into a vibrant neighborhood with a thriving arts scene, trendy shops and nearly two dozen restaurants, bars, bakeries and coffee spots, a transformation driven by investments in local businesses and cultural events.

“Known as Jackson’s hippest neighborhood and the creative engine of Mississippi’s capital city,” according to Visit Mississippi, “Fondren is renowned for welcoming and celebrating people from all walks of life with open arms.”

National acts frequent Fondren’s Duling Hall, an award-winning music and events venue that’s also one of the neighborhood’s architectural gems. Happy Hour is happily passed — with slow, Southern insouciance — at The Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs, once a pharmacy storeroom, now a color-splashed speakeasy. A “farm to fork” restaurant, Elvie’s celebrates Mississippi’s culinary culture with a strong reliance on locally grown ingredients. Chef Hunter Evans was named as one of five James Beard Award finalists for Best Chef: South in 2023 and 2024. 

Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


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