By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2019 Issue
Of all industries, digital transformation ultimately may leave its most-impactful mark on the automotive sector. Semi-autonomous vehicles already are here, cars that can park themselves, brake themselves and alert you to blind-spot dangers. Connectivity has become fundamental to the advancement of vehicles; industry analysts continue to insist that a future of all-electric, self-driving vehicles communicating with each other and “smart” roads packed with sensors is just around the corner.
Not so fast. Experts (including Elon Musk) who were confidently proclaiming that millions of fully autonomous vehicles will be riding on America’s roads by the early 2020s are having second thoughts (while those who said it would like longer for electric cars to proliferate are speeding up their timetables).
The reassessment of the dawning of the age of robot cars has been precipitated by the growing realization that it’s going to be tougher than anyone expected to program autonomous vehicles to recognize and react to the stupid things that impulsive human drivers do every day.
According to a recent report in The New York Times, few experts in autonomous cars believe that the technology is ready to take full control of the steering wheel in any and all driving conditions. A growing consensus now believes that the age of self-driving vehicles will “begin with a trickle, not a flood,” the Times report says, adding that low-speed shuttles at airports or on college campuses may be the early adaptors, but it will be much longer before we see robot taxi fleets or fully autonomous 18-wheelers.
According to the report, the operational boundaries of self-driving cars initially will be enforced by having the “passenger’ in the driver’s seat lashed to the system by an “electronic leash” known as geofencing.
Cadillac is testing a new autopilot system for its cars called Super Cruise, which permits hands-free driving—but only on highways that have data from global positioning maps that can fix the vehicle’s position to within four inches.
THRIVING AUTO HUB IN MISSISSIPPI
The Jackson Metro and Mississippi’s first automotive original equipment manufacturer Nissan North America in Canton, MS, started production in 2003, and continues to be an automotive leader employing approximately 6,000 workers. Team members at the sprawling Canton facility assemble some of the global automotive giant’s top selling models, including Altima, Titan XD pickup truck and Murano.
Nissan was the catalyst in recruiting automotive manufacturing companies to Mississippi. The National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center issued a report detailing the automaker’s economic impact in Mississippi which includes 25,000 direct and indirect jobs created due to the automotive leader’s presence in Central Mississippi.
Calsonic Kansei, a long-time supplier to Nissan, employs more than 500 team members at the automaker’s Canton plant. Because of Mississippi’s winning formula, the supplier expanded to meet the growing demand for the company’s products. Calsonic Kansei’s new facility in Madison County represents an investment of $16.33 million, creating 98 new jobs.
Although not located in the Greater Jackson region, another Japanese OEM helped secure Mississippi’s spot as a leader in the Southern Automotive Corridor—Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi. Located in Blues Springs, team members assemble one of the world’s top-selling models, Corolla. With a Mississippi-made workforce, the Toyota team in Blue Springs assembled 500,000 vehicles faster than any other Toyota plant in North America, proving the state’s workforce provides a tangible advantage in the automotive industry.
Nissan and Toyota’s presence in the Magnolia state ensures OEMs and suppliers will continue to focus on Mississippi and the deep pool of skilled and productive automotive workers.
Joining the Greater Jackson Metro’s growing automotive ranks is Continental tire. Thanks to the state’s highly efficient one-stop permitting process and aggressive state business advantages, Continental broke ground just 10 months after announcing the tire maker was locating in Hinds County, Miss. This project netted the state a number of economic development awards and accolades by the world’s fourth largest tire manufacturer. The plant reflects an investment of $1.45 billion and 2,500 new jobs, while significantly reinforcing Mississippi’s leadership position in the Southern Automotive Corridor.
Mississippi continues to experience success in business recruitment and expansion because of the state’s business-friendly environment. State lawmakers implemented the Corporate Franchise Tax Phase Out, which eliminates corporate franchise tax over a 10-year period. The phase out reduces the current $2.50 tax for each $1,000 of capital by $.25 annually until compete phase out occurs in 2027 and an exemption on the first $100,000 of capital.
The Greater Jackson region and the state also are focused on building a robust and sustainable workforce through workforce training initiatives like the Mississippi Works Fund. This program dedicates $50 million over 10 years towards strengthening the state’s workforce. The state’s community college system can now enhance their customized training programs to more effectively meet the needs of companies and prepare more Mississippians for in-demand careers.
Seventy-five percent of the funds may be used for new job creation, while 25-percent of the funds are allocated to strengthen the skills of Mississippi’s existing workforce and for workforce certification. The Mississippi Development Authority has the ability to direct funds as part of recruitment and expansion efforts.
In addition to these incentives and initiatives, the state’s research universities and strong network of community colleges take an innovative approach in providing companies with a next-generation workforce. Mississippi State University’s Center for Advance Vehicular Systems, which includes a campus in the Greater Jackson Metro in Canton, focuses on improving engineering, manufacturing and design technologies. The School of Polymers and High Performance Materials and the Mississippi Polymer Institute at University of Southern Mississippi continue to be national leaders in the study of composites, advanced materials, polymers and plastics. Additionally, Mississippi’s community colleges work directly with companies, providing pre-employment training and customized training programs. These efforts ensure workers are ready to contribute to a high-quality product on Day 1.
With strong incentives, a business-friendly environment, low operating costs, robust infrastructure and a growing skilled workforce, Mississippi and the Greater Jackson Metro continue to provide the fuel necessary for automotive economic success.
To learn how your next project can join the successful automotive community in the Greater Jackson Metro, contact the Greater Jackson Alliance at (601) 948-7575, or visit www.jxnmetro360.com.
ONSITE WORKFORCE TRAINING IN ALABAMA
Alabama offers one of the strongest workforce training programs in the world, a testament to Alabama’s commitment to the industries who call it home. Workforce development services provided by AIDT are among the strongest incentives for businesses who choose to locate or expand in Alabama.
AIDT has assisted new and expanding companies with recruiting, assessing and training more than 750,000 job seekers. Recognized among the nation’s top workforce training programs by industry observers, AIDT training produces a workforce that employers recognize for high performance achievement. This is a result of both the technical assessment and training that AIDT trainees receive, and the process by which they are selected.
AIDT holds itself to a high standard, and recently has earned an ISO 9001:2015 certification for quality and continuous improvement. The ISO 9001 designation is the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organizations use this standard to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements. AIDT has held its ISO designation since 2005 and it is currently the only state workforce training incentive program in the country to achieve this certification.
One of the ways that AIDT stays at the forefront of workforce development is through innovative approaches and solutions to common issues.
One of these issues involved the streamlining of the Alabama Workforce System entities into a cohesive brand under the umbrella of the Alabama Department of Commerce. Unveiled in 2017, the unified “AlabamaWorks!” system streamlines delivery of workforce development information and services to both companies and citizens.
That same year, “Apprenticeship Alabama”—a statewide apprenticeship program—made its debut in order to meet the needs of Alabama’s rapidly growing apprenticeship needs. It provides companies in targeted industries the opportunity to set up Department of Labor-registered apprenticeship programs at their plants in Alabama and qualify for state-based tax incentives. Apprenticeship programs are proving to be a hot commodity, with several programs already beginning to turn out their first graduates.
These innovations also include enhancements in technology. Recently, AIDT has begun to implement virtual reality training into appropriate sectors of learning in addition to traditional hands-on training. The goal is for this initiative to be rolled out to all training AIDT centers.
AIDT operates four main training centers throughout the state, in addition to several smaller sites that are geared towards helping specific companies. All of AIDT’s training classes are offered at no cost to the company or the individual.
The Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP) in Tanner, AL boasts an impressive three-building campus, each targeting specific skill sets within the robotics industry, and a 1/4 mile testing track. Currently, the facility is operating at near capacity with plans for expansion on the horizon.
The Alabama Workforce Training Center (AWTC) in Birmingham hosts a K-12 construction academy in conjunction with local school systems and ACCS. The AWTC also offers training classes to the general public, such as the Construction Trades Program, which is a 6-week training program designed to give citizens the skills they need in order to be successful in the construction industry.
In the capital city, the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center (MRWTC) takes center stage. The goal of the MRWTC is to provide entry-level training, employee upgrade training, training in programs often found in two-year colleges and K-12 career training, to adequately supply businesses with a trained workforce for the Montgomery region.
At the Maritime Training Center in Mobile, Alabama, the primary focus is supporting the needs of the robust
maritime industry. Dozens of classes are offered quarterly for citizens who are looking to jumpstart an exciting career, or brush up on their skills.
Whether it’s automotive, aerospace, robotics & automation, shipbuilding or biomedical, AIDT researches and identifies the needs of each company served and uses that information to develop a full range of technical pre-employment selection programs uniquely customized to each company.
Alabama has demonstrated its ability to modify and adjust its game plan to consistently win at workforce and economic development. As a state, Alabama prides itself on being flexible to meet the demands of industry while offering the highest return for its citizens.