Nissan Canton: a Mississippi first, celebrates 20 years of becoming a state staple – Hear from employees with 20-year longevity

Aerial view Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant

By Gail H.M. Brown, Ph.D.,

Contributing Writer,

Delorise Hulitt-Love Nissan, senior quality analyst

As visitors and locals travel north and south on I-55 between the state capital – Jackson and Canton, Miss., their journey eventually bursts into the scenic view of a brilliantly light-colored, futuristic complex with a red accent design centered over its entrance. 

That complex, Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant, situated on 1,038 acres of what was once farmland, opened in 2003 as Mississippi’s first automotive production facility. On May 27, the plant reached its 20th-year milestone.

The facility, according to its factsheet, is 4.7 million square feet. According to a 2003 The New York Times report, the facility was at 2.5 million square feet then.

Several travelers have been heard commenting that “the building seems as if it stretches for miles.”

In addition to its outside esthetics, the auto giant is most proud of its growth and quality production on the inside. It has grown to a more than 5,000-member workforce today.

The plant’s production is at 410,000 vehicles annually, producing such Nissan models as the Altima, Frontier, Titan and the Titan XD. 

On Feb. 17, 2022, the plant announced that it will be building two all-new electric models and will become “a center for U.S. EV production,” a total investment of $500 million, “preserving and upskilling nearly 2,000 jobs” to begin in 2025.

Coctina Magee, Stamping
Department at Nissan

Not only is management thrilled over Nissan Canton’s success in 20 years, but the employees are also equally pleased; many of whom have been with the plant since it opened. 

“I have been at Nissan 20 years,” said Coctina Magee in the Stamping Department. “Nissan has been such a blessing to me and my family,” Magee added. “Prior to Nissan, I was working two jobs as a single parent to provide for me and my daughter. Nissan compensates us well and provide great benefits.”

Magee shared that her daughter is in nursing school now, and thanks to Nissan, her daughter received one of the Titans of Tomorrow Scholarship awards. Nissan offers the scholarship to the employees’ children each year.

According to Nissan, “up to 10 scholarships for $2,500 will be awarded annually and are not renewable. [However], “students may reapply each year as long as they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.”

Senior Quality Analyst Delorise Hulitt-Love will celebrate her 20th milestone as a Nissan Canton employee on Sept. 22. “Working for Nissan has benefited me and my family by providing a livable wage, good healthcare and retirement benefits,” Hulitt-Love said. “The shutdowns that are built into our vacation schedule allows us to spend quality time together as well.”

Another 20-year Nissan Canton veteran, paint technician Gyrrical Edwards, concurred with appreciating those benefits. And “bonuses,” he added. Edwards also said, the “great summer shutdown allows me to spend a great amount of time with my family and travel different places each year.”

Asked, how would they describe the company and why?

Hulitt-Love commented: “Working for Nissan has been an interesting journey. While no company is perfect, I would describe Nissan as fair and inclusive with a focus on continuous improvement and innovation. They are also encouraging to those that want to advance their careers.” She said she has grown in her role with various professional development opportunities and “building supportive relationships through mentoring.” Hulitt-Love added, “Another important aspect for me has been the engagement with the different business synergy teams to participate in community outreach (Habitat for Humanity) as well internal events with our employees.”

Edwards said, “a great place to work with plenty of opportunities.”

Gyrrical Edwards, Nissan Paint Technician

Magee said the company puts employees first, is transparent, and has always done what’s in the best interest of the employees. “The reason I say that is because in 2008, we had an economic recession, and Nissan remained open. The employees were still able to provide for their families, and then in 2020, we were all faced with a pandemic. Again, Nissan made a way.”

The three 20-year employees had similar answers to what kind of employees they would recruit for Nissan if given the opportunity. “I would recommend they have the right mindset to work, be on time, and to work well with others.

Other responses included hard workers, willing to work with different people, respectful, reliable and eager to learn something new every day and fast-paced.

Mississippi’s decision-makers and law-makers labored long and hard in 2000 to attract Nissan to Mississippi, finally offering a tremendous incentive package that drew criticism by some, especially politicians and taxpayers.

Nevertheless, that automaker came and appears to be a mainstay in the Magnolia State. This is evidenced by its continuous philanthropy and community involvement. The table below, based on data from its new manufacturing website – illustrates some of Nissan’s Canton community giving and engagement: 

1. Number of volunteer hours: nearly 15k

2. Number of habitat homes built: 14

3. United Way contribution to date: over $6.5 million

4. Number of scholarships awarded: two scholarship programs: 

– Titans of Tomorrow (employee child program) has awarded 80 scholarships to date, totaling $225K.

– Nissan scholarship thru Institutes of Higher Learning has awarded $577,642 to date.

5. Nissan Neighbors + Nissan Foundation grants and other donations = $13,781,094.

Organizations, schools, etc. are grateful to Nissan Canton for its generosity.

“United Way of the Capital Area greatly values its partnership with Nissan,” said President and CEO Nikki McCelleis. “For several years, Nissan has partnered with United Way of the Capital Area to assist in the engagement of hundreds of employee volunteers and donors as we strive to address complex challenges within our communities of Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties.

“Our friends at Nissan contribute more than money.  They contribute their ideas, volunteer power, in-kind support and more, which is truly impactful as we work to build stronger, more resilient communities by implementing programs that support the improvement of the health, education and economic mobility of every person in every community we serve,” McCelleis said.

Some of the initiatives include, but are not limited to, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, the Annual School Tools Drive, 2-1-1 MS, and our Volunteer Tax Assistance Program (VITA).

“Here we are 20 years later, still standing, and I’m so grateful to be a part of the Nissan family,” concluded Magee.

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