Group calls for minority inclusion in Continental’s US plant project

In February, Continental announced plans to build a new commercial vehicle tyre plant in the US state of Mississippi and shared that the US$1.4 billion project would eventually create some 2,500 jobs. Construction of the plant is not scheduled to begin until 2018 and production won’t get underway until the end of the following year, however concerns have already arisen and even a protest held over the potential makeup of the plant’s construction team.

According to non-profit group NOSA (No One Stands Alone), which was formed last month to draw attention to the Mississippi plant project’s inclusion policy, past experience on the hiring of people from minority and disadvantaged groups for similar large company projects gives cause for concern. MSNews Now shares claims made by the group’s creator, Antonio Pope, that minority inclusion on similar projects has been as low as two per cent. “If you have a history of doing something, you’re not going to change it,” he commented.

Pope organised a rally that took place yesterday outside the City Hall in Clinton (Hinds County), near the site of the future plant. The rally wasn’t specifically directed against Continental Tire the Americas, rather its aim was to highlight issues attached to past projects and ensure these aren’t repeated when Continental begins erecting and later staffing its plant. Television station WJTV informs us that Pope sees “a lot of fights out here” for minorities. “We just chose to pick this one.”

On 4 February, the Mississippi Legislature approved a $263 million incentive package for the project, and during the rally NOSA emphasised that the taxpayers of Mississippi – regardless of background – are financially subsidising the facility’s construction: “We’ve given them incentives. They’ve taken the money,” MSNews Now reported Pope as stating. “We want Continental to be aware of what the issues are and come talk to minority contractors.”

Others consider NOSA’s action premature. Robert Graham, a member of Hinds County’s Board of Supervisors, claims NOSA never enquired about the existence of an inclusion plan, and he points out that both Continental and Hinds County already have such plans in place. “What are you protesting?” he asked, according to MSNews Now. “I mean, we haven’t even turned dirt yet. How can you say you’re being excluded when no one has been included at this particular point or excluded?”

In response to the demonstration, Continental Tire the Americas issued a statement. WJTV has published its content: “Continental is committed to supplier diversity. For 17 years we have had a programme in place to increase our supplier diversity,” the tyre maker wrote. In regards to the Clinton plant project, Continental stated it has “been working with the Mississippi Development Authority and Hinds County officials to develop a list of potential minority suppliers.” It also gave details of a website where interested suppliers can register.

“In 2015, Continental did $390 million in business with minority and women suppliers in North America,” the statement additionally claimed. “We are projecting that figure to increase to more than $400 million in 2016.”

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