Plant closures, layoffs hit hard in Mississippi
May 13, 2001
The loss of more than 1,000 jobs and closure of manufacturing icons are enough to send shivers down the spine of any self-respecting economic developer, not to mention a community at large.
It happened over the past few weeks in Jackson County, long known as Mississippi's most industrialized county. The coastal community was slapped by the announcements that International Paper will close its Moss Point Mill, Rohm and Hass will shut down, Friede Goldman Halter will lay off 400 workers in Pascagoula and American Identity will send 121 workers home from its Ocean Springs plant.
Altogether, more than 1,000 tax-paying, grocery-buying, home-buying, car-buying, church-going, hard-working people will be out of work. Such devastating news, even in a down turned economy, is difficult to accept.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, much maligned for favoring north Mississippi over south Mississippi in many of his actions, is now doing what the Associated Press described in a news report last week as "scrambling to piece together a plan to help the area." State assistance will likely follow.
The closures and layoffs in Jackson County, where manufacturing wages are among the highest in the state, will hit heavy. Manufacturing jobs are disappearing in Mississippi at an alarming rate and the technical re-training programs that might prepare these people for other lines of work are coming much too slowly.
Mississippi's archaic educational system remains too cumbersome to react quickly enough to help workers whose jobs are gone. What the state needs is some kind of early intervention program for manufacturing workers who are likely to face similar devastating circumstances in the near future. Re-training takes time and money. Our state doesn't have enough of either.