JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- A Nissan Motor Co. contractor has begun seeking applicants for 500 workers as part of the automaker's buildup to begin producing a new model in Mississippi.
The hiring will push the combined number of Nissan and contract employees at its Canton plant to more than 6,000 for the first time. The total currently stands at more than 5,600.
Kelly Services will hire the workers starting at $12 an hour. Nissan spokesman Justin Saia says new workers will have the opportunity to become Nissan employees, whose average pay is more than twice as much, after two years. The company has promised such transition opportunities to many of the contract workers who labor alongside Nissan employees at its plant. Contract workers have also been an issue in continuing efforts by the United Auto Workers to organize employees in Canton.
In a Thursday statement, the company said it needs workers to begin production of the Murano crossover vehicle in late fall. Nissan plans to export Muranos from Canton, which will be its only worldwide assembly location for the vehicle, taking over for a plant in Kyushu, Japan. Nissan has been shifting production out of Japan to reduce the risks of exchange rate losses and to respond to customers more quickly.
"The addition of Murano to our portfolio, coupled with the continued growth and success of the Canton plant, will move us even closer to our goal to build more than 85 percent of the vehicles we sell in the U.S. right here in North America," John Martin, senior vice president of manufacturing, supply chain management and purchasing for Nissan North America, said in a statement.
Nissan also assembles vehicles in Smyrna, Tennessee, and makes engines in Decherd, Tennessee.
Nissan currently assembles Altima sedans, Armada and Xterra SUVs, Titan and Frontier pickup trucks and NV passenger and cargo vans in Canton. The Murano will be assembled on the same line as the Xterra, Frontier, Titan and Armada.
When Nissan announced the Murano move in early 2013, it said it would hire 400 workers. Saia said that was raised to 500 "based on expected production needs."
Nissan is also building a supplier park so component makers can move nearer to the Canton plant. Nissan projects suppliers will hire another 400 workers there after the park is completed in the fall.
Nissan says it has invested $2.6 billion in the Canton plant, which began operations in 2003. The state government has given $378 million in aid, while state and local governments have contributed hundreds of millions more in tax breaks.
"Nissan is an engine for economic growth and development in Mississippi and continues to prove to the world that Mississippi works," Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said. "With the addition of more than 2,000 jobs and six new products at the Canton plant in just the last three years, the company is helping demonstrate the power of Mississippi's strong workforce and competitive business climate."