• 75°

Expert: Foreign competitors taking toll on U.S. industry

Mississippi and U.S. businesses and industries are facing moreforeign competition and other challenges in an increasinglyglobalized economy, says the president of the state’smanufacturer’s association.

Jay Moon, president of the Mississippi Manufacturer’sAssociation, said foreign competition today extends beyond Mexico.He specifically mentioned China.

“China is the foremost competitor to U.S. manufacturing today,”Moon said Thursday during the Industrial Development Foundation’sIndustry Appreciation Luncheon at the Brookhaven Country Club.

Moon cited China’s low labor cost as one advantage the countrytries to exploit. He also said manufacturers association officialsare working with congressional leaders to combat theft ofintellectual property and manipulation of foreign currencies thatmakes it more difficult to export U.S. goods.

Regarding Mississippi, Moon said rising health care costs,including 40-50 percent increases in premiums, are making it moredifficulty for businesses to stay competitive and still provide fortheir employees. He called for additional civil justicereforms.

“We think civil justice reform needs to continue,” Moonsaid.

Other challenges facing manufacturers include rising energycosts, particularly natural gas, and a work force shortage that isone the horizon. He anticipated U.S. manufacturers being 30 millionworkers short in the coming years as the Baby Boomer generationretires and Generation X makes up the work force majority.

Moon cited some changes in manufacturing operations. He saidthose companies are moving toward smaller, faster and moreefficient operations.

“We’re seeing a radical change in manufacturing,” said Moon, whoearlier pointed out that one manufacturing job helps create threeother jobs needed to support it.

Moon said low-skill jobs that have been lost to other countrieswill not be returning during an economic rebound. He predictedsuccess areas for the U.S. would be in the fields of technology,frozen foods and bulky items that are difficult to ship.

Moon said communities that are able to meet industrial demandswould be able to capitalize and be in better shape. He complimentedBrookhaven and Lincoln County efforts to acquire additionalindustrial land.

“I think it’s an important move on your part to be able to dothat,” Moon said.

Unlike some other communities, Moon also applauded the abilityof city, county, chamber and Copiah-Lincoln Community Collegeofficials to work together to pursue economic development and workforce training.

“Everybody doesn’t do it, and everybody doesn’t do it well,”Moon said.

In other activity during the Industry Appreciation Luncheon,state Rural Development Director Nick Walters presented a $29,000check to the chamber of commerce. The funds will be matched withlocal money and used to help renovate the old city fire stationbehind the chamber building.

Also, Entergy officials presented the chamber with a $1,000check to be used for existing business programs. The chamberreceived the funds due to Delphi-Packard’s winning the annualGovernor’s Cup award that recognizes well-run business and theirimpact on the community.