Miss. gov to call lawmakers into session next week

Published 12:33 pm Friday, October 23, 2009

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday he will call lawmakers into special session late next week to consider incentives for a company to develop a $300 million manufacturing plant in the Delta, one of the poorest parts of the state.

Barbour would only say it’s not an automotive plant. He said it will be a “very sophisticated, advanced manufacturing” operation that will create up to 500 jobs in five years.

Barbour announced the plans for a special session during a speech to the Mississippi Economic Council, the state chamber of commerce.

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Barbour said afterward he would not talk about the incentives he’ll ask lawmakers to provide, but said the state’s share would be no more than 10 percent of the overall project.

Barbour said state officials have been working on a deal with the company for several months. He recently took a 13-day business trip to Asia.

“We cut the deal while we were over there,” Barbour told reporters.

Barbour said he hopes the special session will last one day.

He said he might ask lawmakers to handle two matters unrelated to the manufacturing project — making changes in how some work force training money is handled and changing a state land easement so the National Park Service can take over some property that a private landowner wants to donate near a Civil War battlefield in north Mississippi. Details about the battlefield were not immediately available.

Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority generally remain quiet about possible economic development projects.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said he doesn’t know details of the project proposed for the Delta, a mostly rural stretch of flatland in the northwestern part of the state. Still, Nunnelee said he believes lawmakers will support what Barbour wants.

“I think anything we can do to bring jobs to this state, we should do very quickly,” Nunnelee said.

Barbour has called three special sessions already this year, two of which were to complete work on a state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. The first special session, which took place during the regular session, was to give county supervisors more leeway to spend local tax money on roads and bridges.

A special session usually costs at least $30,000 a day. Mississippi’s tax collections fell significantly short of expectations during the first three months of the fiscal year, and Barbour cut nearly $172 million — or about 2.9 percent — out of the nearly $6 billion budget in early September. He has said more budget cuts are likely.

Speculation had been that Barbour would call a special session on incentives for GreenTech Automotive Inc., which wants to locate a $2 billion plant on 1,500 acres in Tunica County. That is in the northern Delta, just south of Memphis, Tenn.

GreenTech’s owner, Xiaolin “Charles” Wang, held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 6 at the site where he said he intends to build the car plant. GreenTech had not yet purchased the property, and an incentive package was still being negotiated, said Tunica County Chamber of Commerce President Lyn Arnold.