Barbour mum on details of talks with European firm

Published 11:10 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour revealed few details Wednesday about his just-completed economic development trip to Germany, saying it could be months before any job-creation decisions are made.

He said the state has been well served by being secretive during talks to lure other big projects here, including a Toyota plant that was announced in early 2007 and is under construction in north Mississippi.

“As people should learn from when we got Toyota, keeping the confidence of the company that’s considering Mississippi by keeping things confidential when they ask you to keep things confidential pays you a big dividend,” Barbour said during a news conference.

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The governor said he and Mississippi Development Authority employees met last week with executives in Germany, but he wouldn’t reveal the name of the company or what kind of business it is.

He said officials have been trying to convince the company to do business in Mississippi, and the firm could make a decision in the spring.

Barbour, a Republican, returned from Europe early to attend a governors’ meeting Tuesday in Pennsylvania with Democratic President-elect Barack Obama.

Barbour left for Europe on Nov. 22, and his office announced that he’d be gone for two weeks to Ireland, Germany and Spain. His office said Wednesday he did not go to Spain.

Barbour said the state is paying for only part of his trip.

He said either he or his political action committee will pay for his six-day trip to Ireland, where he was honored at a university in Dublin. Barbour said the state also is not paying travel expenses for his wife, Marsha, who accompanied him to Ireland and flew back to the U.S. when he went to Germany.

Barbour said the state will pay for his expenses as if he had flown directly from the U.S. to Germany.

The governor’s trip came shortly after he announced state budget cuts because of the downturn in the economy. Barbour defended his travel.

“When you have a bad economy like we have now and you have live prospects who might bring jobs to the state, it’s all the more important to really work hard to make them know that we want ’em in Mississippi,” he said.