Lowndes Co. commits $15M to project going before lawmakers

Published 6:54 pm Friday, April 27, 2007

Lowndes County officials have pledged $15 million toward improvements at a site being promoted for a new plant, an issue that will be presented to lawmakers on Friday.

On Wednesday, county supervisors passed a resolution asking the Legislature, which convenes in a special session at 9 a.m. in Jackson, for approval to borrow the $15 million, to buy the land and make improvements on the property.

No one has said publicly what company is being courted with the incentives, which would include $48.4 million from the state, said Gov. Haley Barbour.

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The only company being mentioned is PACCAR of Bellevue, Wash. The maker of Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks did announce in January it plans to build an engine-manufacturing plant somewhere in the Southeast.

Barbour said Wednesday that the project would bring in 500 jobs with an estimated payroll of $18 million. Production would begin in 2010.

The state portion of the project includes onsite improvements on roads, site preparation and the extension of water and wastewater services, as well as offsite items like infrastructure and work force training.

Of the $15 million commitment from Lowndes County, $10 million would be used to pay the loan taken out by the Industrial Development Authority. Another $1.8 million will be “reimbursement” for electrical infrastructure and other utilities, said Board President Harry Sanders.

“The county’s going to put (money) into an electrical substation, which helps us to get the power down to be competitive,” he said.

Barbour would only describe the Fortune 200 company as a U.S.-based business with international reach that wants to build an engine plant on a 394-acre site in Lowndes County.

Rep. Jeff Smith, D-Columbus, said the session should finish in one day.

“I don’t think there’s any dissension or tension about this,” Smith said.

Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Gray Swoope said the Legislature will not be told the identity of the company until after the session is over.

Swoope said it is important for the Legislature to act quickly, since other states are also bidding for the plant.

“We don’t need to play games with it. It’s not a done deal until we get this passed,” he said.The school board for the Picayune Separate Municipal School District meets at 12 noon Friday in the board room at the district’s central offices, 706 Goodyear Blvd.