The Southern Automotive Conference recently concluded in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, showed his 1952 Bel-Air Station Wagon with some pride during his presentation as a salute to Mississippi’s version of the Woodward Cruise, Cruising the Coast. However, the focus of his presentation and that of the other speakers was directed toward the future of automotive manufacturing in the South and not on nostalgia.
Keeping manufacturing in the United States using highly technical manufacturing processes, creating a favorable business climate within Southern States for manufacturing, and providing a highly skilled and motivated workforce were the three issues focused on throughout the conference. Several speakers at the conference discussed the high level of sophistication within the manufacturing facilities built by original equipment manufacturers and their supply base. Various data was used to provide insight into the rapid expansion of Southern manufacturing. Collaboration and even coopetition was heralded as a way to keep manufacturing from migrating to Mexico from the United States.
In addition, and in particular, Governor Bryant relayed the many steps Mississippi has taken to improve the business climate, particularly for manufacturers. Low energy costs, motivated workers and favorable business tax were all cited as reasons manufacturing is booming in the South. The work ethic of Southern manufacturing workers was of particular focus. Several hourly employees of automotive manufacturers were even presented awards for their work ethic.
However, on several occasions, the lack of highly skilled workers in many of the Southern states was alluded to as a hindrance to further growth. In response, the State of Mississippi, has directed $50M toward training workers with skills thought critical to operating highly technical manufacturing facilities. Many other Southern states have followed suit. In addition, several Southern universities discussed the resources being provided to educate a skilled work force.
The 2016 Southern Automotive Conference served as a showcase for not only attracting manufacturing from other states, but how manufacturing can still be successful in the U.S.A., even when faced with stiff foreign competition. The efforts being made by the states participating in the conference to provide a successful manufacturing base was impressive and likely points to the future of American manufacturing.