State officials in Mississippi are defending Nissan -- and themselves -- from the public backlash of a UAW-sponsored study that claims the automaker stands to receive far more in public incentives than has ever been publicized.
The study by the Washington research nonprofit Good Jobs First calculates that Nissan will receive $1.33 billion in state and local tax breaks and public support over the first 30 years of its Canton, Miss., vehicle assembly plant.
That would be more than four times the $295 million incentives package publicized when Nissan announced the project in 2000.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant dismissed the debate as a union-organizing tactic. Canton's 5,000 nonunion workers are being solicited by UAW organizers.
"This is just another desperate attempt by big union bosses to scare Nissan's Canton employees," Bryant said. "We are proud that Nissan calls Mississippi home, and we look forward to the company's continued success here."
Regardless of the incentives amount, the officials counter, Canton continues to spawn related investment.
"We have more than gotten our money's worth out of our investment in Nissan," said Marlo Dorsey, chief marketing officer for the Mississippi Development Authority.
Nissan is expanding capacity to make Canton the global export base for the next-generation Murano crossover. Nissan plans to expand its on-site supplier and logistics center to recruit more parts suppliers to Mississippi.
The discrepancy in incentives figures is largely explained by the study's inclusion of ongoing tax benefits over their entire 30-year eligibility period. The original 2000 figure did not extend the incentives into the future.
Also, some incentives, such as Job Tax Credits, were tied to the number of employees at the plant. Increasing employment from the 2,000 jobs Nissan originally planned there earns the automaker more incentives.
Dorsey said that the official figure for Nissan incentives at Canton is now $378 million.
"Look at this from Mississippi's perspective," she said. "A lot of that investment represents things that benefit the people of the state. For example, $80 million of it went toward work force training, which raises the skill level of our work force."