City leaders: Nissan too big for Natchez

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2000

It’s a tiny town on the Natchez Trace, small in terms of population but long on history. Sound familiar? After Wednesday, the difference between Canton and Natchez is clear: Canton is likely to be the home of a $1 billion Nissan plant offering up to 4,000 jobs.

Canton and company officials aren’t talking, but others involved in the deal have said Nissan will bring a plant to the Madison County town, which lies 25 miles north of Jackson.

But could Natchez — two hours from the closest international airport — actually support such a plant?

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No, say local leaders. For one thing, Canton has the entire metropolitan Jackson area from which to draw a labor force. Natchez simply wouldn’t have the workers to fill a 4,000-employee plant, said state Rep. Andrew Ketchings, R-Natchez.

&uot;I don’t think anything of that magnitude would come here,&uot; Ketchings said.

But the location of a Nissan plant in Mississippi will help the state, and by extension Natchez, Ketchings said.

He compared the deal to Alabama’s landing a Mercedes Benz plant six years ago.

&uot;Alabama had Mercedes, and it gave them instant credibility in terms of economic development,&uot; Ketchings said. &uot;This immediately puts Mississippi in that same category.&uot;

Still, any direct impact from the plant is unlikely.

&uot;It’s probably too far away to have a direct impact,&uot; Ketchings said.

Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith agreed. But he said spinoff industries might be attracted to Natchez, and that they’d be welcome in the city.

Smith agreed that the plant announcement, while not final, is good news for the state.

&uot;The one thing I still wonder about is if landing that was a repercussion of the governor’s new economic plan,&uot; Smith said.

This fall, the state Legislature approved Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s new economic development plan, a series of new tax incentives for businesses along with a reorganization of the state’s economic development authority.

Ketchings had not heard for certain whether Nissan will build its plant in Canton, but he said lawmakers could be called back for a special session to approve a bond issue for the project.