The state of Mississippi – where you will receive the South’s warmest welcome – is rich in history, culture, wide-open spaces, culinary delights, and educational opportunities along with a great mix of rural and urban living.
The Magnolia state is comprised of eighty-two counties. Of these, Hinds County, founded in 1821 and located in the state’s central west, is the most populous with population numbers close to 250,000. The state capital of Jackson, Mississippi, founded in 1822, is situated in Hinds County, making the county part of the Jackson Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The county’s position and its exceptional highway transportation infrastructure provide an ideal setting from which its well-established businesses operate as well as for companies seeking to set down roots in a business-friendly climate.
The Hinds County Economic Development Authority’s Business Development Director Curnis Upkins, III explains that the I-55 and I-20 “intersect in the heart of Jackson. I-55 is our direct connection to cities such as New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, and Chicago.” The I-20 connects the county to the cities of Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and Dallas, Texas.
“These road networks enhance our proximity to major transportation hubs such as the Port of South Louisiana in LaPlace – the largest port by tonnage in the western hemisphere – and the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis, Tennessee,” says Upkins. He notes that these hubs are approximately a three-hour commute from Hinds County. The county is also six hours from the cities of Dallas and Atlanta, “two of the ten-largest markets by population in the United States and Nashville, one of the fastest-growing markets in the country.”
Getting around is easy with the Jackson Evans International Airport and the smaller regional airport of John Bell Williams. Rail service is also available from three rail carriers.
Hinds County hosts diverse industries, including construction, agriculture, health care, manufacturing, telecommunications, and tourism.
The county is considered the state’s manufacturing hub. “Several metal coating facilities established factories in the Greater Jackson Industrial Center,” in the 1980s, Upkins says. These manufacturers include Double G Coatings, manufacturers of galvanized steel; Metal Coaters, one of the largest metal coil coating companies in the country; and Precoat Metals, another manufacturer of coil coated metals. “Metal distribution facilities such as United Steel Supply and Allied Crawford Steel have located within the same industrial center,” he adds.
There are areas in which Upkins would like to see more growth. He says that a couple of small start-ups have located to Hinds County, in Jackson specifically, that are focused on, “interactive experiences.”
NunoErin “focuses on interactive furniture, while Lobaki focuses on interacting with real or virtual environments through augmented reality and virtual reality. This is a niche industry that could set our community apart from others. We’d love for that to continue taking off from here,” he says.
It is no secret that communities with a well-educated workforce will attract businesses, both large and small. Skilled workers enable companies to remain productive and competitive, and research indicates that a skilled workforce equates to a healthier economy.
To provide the educated, ready-to-work graduates that businesses desperately need, the county has universities and colleges like the University of Mississippi, Strayer University, Jackson State University, and Hinds Community College. And Hinds County has workforce initiatives to accommodate any career-oriented or business needs.
“Workforce development is occurring locally, outside of traditional channels,” says Workforce Development Director Kemsye Smith. As an example, she refers to the town of Utica’s Hope Community Credit Union, which has, “set up a student-run credit union inside of Jackson’s Provine High School to teach banking and personal finance to students.”
Also, the Mississippi Coding Academy, established in 2017 in Jackson, has set up programs to, “teach those who are interested in finding a different career path [and] the skills needed to become a coder,” adds Smith. Jackson State University has also launched a University Virtual Reality Academy, its first, to teach students the skills required, “to script and create applications for virtual reality.”
Other initiatives for workforce development include those from Hinds Community College which has, “ramped up its offerings to include training for specific industries such as trucking and diesel mechanics,” she says.
In 2018, the county was certified as an ACT Work Ready Community (CWRC). “We’re hoping this will help employers better assess the skills of employees whenever they are hiring or promoting.”
ACT, established in 1959, is a non-profit organization, which aims to provide people with the skills, education, and career readiness to ensure workplace success. The prerequisites for certification include the training provided by the organization and gaining the support of businesses.
“Businesses could show their support by registering with ACT as a company that either recognizes or recommends ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC),” explains Smith. “Those that recognize it acknowledge that they have been informed of the certificate. Those that recommend it plan to implement the NCRC into their hiring process.”
Smith says that this certification “shows our commitment to ensuring that there’s a pipeline of capable workers. It also helps to get out of the general workforce numbers and more into detail on which skills our workforce has demonstrated an ability to perform. It’s definitely a positive.”
Hinds County offers incentives for any business opportunities and interests. Such encouragements are “determined by project,” says Upkins. “We do have free port warehouse licenses and ad valorem tax abatements for applicable industries. These would assist in reducing the amount of real and personal property taxes on things like new buildings, equipment and machinery. There’s also a payment-in-lieu of taxes,” for projects of $60 million or more, he says.
The county has established close partnerships with other agencies such as the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) and its regional economic development organization, the Greater Jackson Alliance, which assists in scouting for new development leads.
Smith adds that Hinds Community College assists companies by developing training packages. “There’s no doubt that our success depends on work with our partners.” The county works, to a smaller extent, with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES). “We depend upon the data that they release regularly regarding the workforce.”
Several companies have recently selected Hinds County as the place to do business, with the largest announcement being that of Continental Tire’s new facility near Clinton. Continental Tire is a prominent tire manufacturer for commercial vehicles, and its new facility is nearing completion.
“[Continental Tire] is spending $1.45 billion and hiring 2500 new employees over the next nine years,” says Upkins. “That’s a significant investment and, once fully realized, will make [Continental] one of the largest employers in the region. It was a very competitive process to win the project, but I believe that we had the best site, and they were confident in the availability and capabilities of our workforce.”
Another newcomer that found south Hinds County attractive for setting up its $25 million production facility is Premium Waters Incorporated (PWI), a private label water bottling company. This company will create forty-four new jobs for the area.
“I believe PWI chose Hinds County due to our municipal water supply capacity, lower cost trucking rates, and the fact that the site was already graded with utilities located nearby,” explains Upkins. “The last item was very important as they had a very short timeframe in which they wanted to start production. They started building their 210,000-square-foot facility in September 2016 and were in production by June 2017.
Three industrial parks in the county are available for occupancy – Clinton Industrial Park, Northwest Industrial Park, and the Wynndale Industrial Centre. Clinton is situated in west Hinds County and provides, “access to major electrical power capacity due to its proximity to one of Entergy’s larger substations,” says Upkins. “It has rail service from Kansas City Southern which travels directly to the Port of Vicksburg (one of the largest inland ports in the United States). There’s a 700,000-square-foot facility available there as well as land that can accommodate up to one hundred contiguous acres.”
Northwest Industrial Park is located in Jackson, providing rail service and, “We can accommodate a site of up to eighty contiguous acres there,” says Upkins. “There’s also a gas-powered electric generation facility adjacent to the park that would appeal to a heavy electrical user.”
The Wynndale Industrial Centre has two hundred acres unfilled and is the site on which Premium Waters built its bottling facility. “The thing that stands out about this park is that there is an electrical switching station within that is sourced by three separate electrical feeds,” he says. “This is excellent for those operations that require electrical redundancy.”
With its cultural and historical attributes, Hinds County is certainly not all work and no play. There is so much to see and do. Jackson, ‘the city with soul,’ has a wealth of museums including its newest: the Mississippi History Museum and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which opened in 2017 and has, “vastly exceeded their expected attendance rates,” notes Upkins. Other institutions of interest include the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.
He also indicates that the artsy areas of Jackson, like Fondren, offer shops, restaurants, and a lively nightlife. There are numerous neighborhood festivals and art galleries as well as nature trails, camping, and fishing for the outdoor enthusiast. The county is also recognized for its low cost of living.
Upkins expresses that Hinds County has “been home to us for a very long time. It has become our friend, helped raised our children and provided us joy when we needed it most. Home does that kind of thing for you.”