“Second-equals-last” is the message on Joe Max Higgins’s license plate. Called a “mega developer,” Higgins was hired to attract business to Mississippi’s Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle had been the home of a Sara Lee pork processing plant, a toilet seat manufacturer and a blue jeans maker. Low tech and low wage, the firms left little behind when they departed.
Mississippi’s median household income is among the lowest in the U.S.:
Where are we going? To a happy ending.
A Development Package
When executives from Yokohama Tire visited Mississippi’s Golden Triangle after a rainstorm, the local development officials had done their homework. In addition to a helicopter tour, they greeted them with Green Tea, moist towels and galoshes.
Mississippi’s Golden Triangle:
Led by Mr. Higgins, the development people created a synergy among labor, government and business. Unprepared for high tech, workers were trained at the local community college. Precisely targeted learning meant they were job ready. With the expertise to run a robot, they could earn as much as $80,000 a year. On the business end, land grants and tax perks sweetened the package.
Our Bottom Line: Incentives
The Golden Triangle case study is about a network of incentives. It is about combining the right worker training and flexibility with benefits for manufacturers.
Moving the Golden Triangle away from low tech and low wages, Mr. Higgins grasped where government, business and labor converge. He articulated a blueprint for the high tech transition that U.S. manufacturing is experiencing.
As a result, instead of pork processors, he wound up with a state-of-the-art steel complex, Yokohama Tire, PACCAR and an Airbus helicopter plant.
My sources and more: Having just seen the story of the Golden Triangle on 60 Minutes, I found more at the Atlantic from James Fallows. Telling the facts and the tradeoffs, his reports are here, here and here. Also, you can listen to an update from James Fallows at Marketplace.