Business News for the Mississippi Delta

John McKay

Leading an economic charge through the Mississippi Manufacturers Association

By Jack Criss

John McKay is the president and CEO of the Jackson-based Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA), the largest and most influential voice for Mississippi manufacturers. The association represents thousands of manufacturers and related businesses across the state. 

Since taking over the helm in October of 2019 from his predecessor, Jay Moon, McKay has developed a strong reputation in his role by helping to develop and win passage of several significant legislative programs. He has led the fight to reduce or eliminate burdensome taxes, such as the inventory and franchise taxes and the sales tax on energy used by manufacturers. 

McKay also assisted in developing and passing major workforce development initiatives such as the Workforce Enhancement Act and the creation of the Mississippi Works Fund. Other significant legislative incentive packages supporting Mississippi companies, such as Ingalls Shipbuilding, Yokohama Tire, Viking, and Continental Tire were also made possible through McKay’s advocacy work through the MMA.

McKay who has been with the MMA since 2008, working in a number of capacities—including taxation lobbying to head of the government affairs division and executive vice-president—was born in Rankin County but is the son of Cleveland natives.

“My father, Bob, owned and operated McKay’s Cleaners in downtown Cleveland for twenty years and his father, my grandfather, was a police officer in Rosedale,” says McKay. “My mother was the former Marcello Long and all of my cousins are Sanders and Havens. So, yes, I spent a lot of time in Cleveland growing up and know the area well.”

McKay went on to graduate from Ole Miss before he and his wife actually left Mississippi for about six years to live in Charleston, South Carolina where McKay obtained his Masters Degree in Public Administration from the College of Charleston. However, after a brief stint in Sarasota, Florida working in county government, McKay and his family returned to the Jackson area in 2008 when he took the job with MMA. 

“I actually think Jay Moon hired me because I had the same Masters Degree that he held,” laughs McKay.

Entering his fifth year as President and CEO, McKay says that Mississippi is growing in the manufacturing sector recently, but that sometimes a big announcement might be followed by a closing.

“That’s just the nature of manufacturing,” admits McKay, “but I think it’s a positive that this state is steady right now. The Sunbelt is starting to really explode and I believe we’re poised to focus on and take advantage of  that. I’ve had conversations with Governor Reeves and other political leaders about what I and the MMA can do to aid in the process.”

McKay says that while the Marshall County battery facility announcement earlier this year was huge, he believes the recent Amazon project announced for Madison could be “transformational.”

“Not only is it an incredible win for Central Mississippi, I believe it will benefit the entire state because all of the training and infrastructure dynamics and ancillary jobs that will come from it are going to far-reaching and momentous,” says McKay. These benefits will extend into the Delta, as well. If anything, I think Governor Reeves might have possibly undersold how incredibly beneficial this project is.”

As for the Delta, McKay—who was also appointed by Governor Reeves to serve on the executive board of the state Workforce Investment Board—says that he works very closely with companies in the region and lauded the work of Jane Moss with Viking Range in Greenwood, MMA’s most recent Chairwoman. 

“Workforce is the top concern in the Delta and that’s what our members there always tell us,” says McKay. “I wish that we could get more training infrastructure in the area, which is not a knock on any of our partners in the Delta, let me be clear. The good news is that I’m seeing workforce training being addressed more strongly in that great part of our state and I hope more of it is added as we move forward. I, personally, have worked with Delta Council on transportation issues in the past, for instance,” he says. 

Since 1951, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association has been the clear and united voice and front for industry in the state and “it’s important that manufacturers in this state band together and form coalitions,” adds McKay. “There is little doubt that industry is the engine that powers Mississippi’s economy, and MMA is an unrelenting advocate in support of measures benefiting manufacturers—we act as their voice, if you will.”

MMA was also one of the driving forces behind the legislative creation of AccelerateMS in 2020 which McKay says is one of his proudest moments. “The effect that AccelerateMS has already had on workforce training during its short existence—and the effect it will continue to have over the next five to ten years—is nothing short of incredible.”

MMA remains vigilant and unrelenting in its efforts to eliminate an unfair, unnecessary or costly burden on the operations of the state’s manufacturing community, says McKay. 

“Practical, accurate and useful information is provided to our members through active committees, seminars, workshops, regular publications and the website, addressing key areas of interest to them,” he says. “I would urge any Delta manufacturers that are not members of MMA to join us soon. That’s not a sales pitch, either. We help make the case for industry to policymakers while they’re busy working, producing, and creating jobs. That’s our job.”