Nissan Payroll Grows At Canton Plant

Nissan Motor Co. has hired 374 of the 5,500 people it needs for its auto plant near Canton, and another 1,050 have cleared pre-employment training. To date, more than 14,000 people have interviewed for positions at the plant, which is scheduled to begin production next year.

"We expect every six weeks to get another 260 people through the pre-employment training process,'' said Galen Medlin, human resources manager for Nissan's Canton plant. "The people we've gotten in so far have been fantastic.''

Nissan began taking applications in 2001, a few months after announcing it would hire 4,000 people to build pickup trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles at the plant. Earlier this year, the firm announced it would add production of its award-winning Altima sedan in Canton, bringing employment targets up to 5,500.

During 2001, Nissan did not get as many applicants as it had hoped. Company officials had wanted as many as 100,000 applicants for the first 4,000 jobs, but numbers fell well short of that. In recent months, more applications have flooded the Mississippi Employment Security Commission, the state agency responsible for processing Nissan applications.

"What's happening is that people are seeing the plant is a reality,'' said MESC spokeswoman Jan Garrick. "They see it going up, and that spurs them on. They can see a completion date in sight.''

So far, the people employed by Nissan in Mississippi have been predominantly white, but Medlin said the minority numbers should improve as it hires more people. The first group of employees was about 65 percent white, 30 percent black and 4 percent other groups, Nissan has said.

The number of people in the pipeline, waiting to be hired, is predominantly black. Of the people who had cleared the pre-employment training process by June, 70 percent were black, 26 percent were white and only 2 percent were from other groups.

As of June, the percentage of applicants whom Nissan had interviewed but who had not yet started pre-employment training was about 60 percent black and 40 percent white.

"It looks like we're going to be at least 50/50, with us maybe leaning a little heavier toward the minority side,'' Medlin said of the company's eventual work force.