Toyota says the educated work force is what drew them to the Tupelo area for its eighth assembly plant in North America - in direct contrast to what some people think about the state's workforce.
Toyota officials, after the glow of the press conference today announcing their new Mississippi plant, will have to explain how they arrived at their research on education. In an annual ranking of states by independent research publisher Morgan Quitno Press, the state ranks 48th out of 50 for education. The ranking is based on 21 key elementary and secondary education indicators of expenditures for instruction, pupil-teacher ratios, high school graduation and dropout rates, and reading, writing and math proficiency.
Mississippi also was ranked 50th, last, in the union based on health. That ranking, also by Morgan Quitno, is based on infant mortality rates, the percent of population not covered by health insurance, per capita expenditures for health care, percent of population lacking access to primary medical care, childhood immunization rates, and percent of adults who smoke.
Other media outlets like the New York Times have said Americans can no longer attract new plants because of the lack of education and the lack of nationalized healthcare. The Toyota announcement flies in the face of that editorialization, but Toyota's leap into more unknown territory bears watching, since Nissan has experienced teething problems at its Mississippi plant.
The new plant site is located near both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State. And like other plants located in the South, that in-between location could be an important distinction - giving the plant a ready source of college grads who might want to stay down south.--Jim Burt