Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Cooper Tire will receive $18 million over a three-year period to help modernize its Tupelo plant under an agreement reached late Saturday night between House and Senate leaders.
The agreement is part of a $199.9 million bill that would finance, through the sale of bonds, a litany of projects ranging from economic development projects like Cooper to tourism endeavors like a planned Tammy Wynette Museum in Tremont where the country music legend was born.
The full Legislature is expected to vote on the bond proposal today or Monday.
There were questions about whether Cooper would be included in the bond package since the Findlay, Ohio-based company has not committed to increasing its workforce that currently includes about 1,600 at the Tupelo plant.
But the tire maker has committed to expending $140 million at one or more of its plants, which includes two others in the United States and others worldwide, to modernize machinery and to become more efficient. The belief is that the state funds, along with $20 million in local tax property tax breaks over a 10-year period, will entice Cooper to expend those funds in Lee County.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who has been an outspoken advocate of limiting bond bills to hold down the state debt, said he and other legislative leaders eventually agreed that Cooper was a good investment because the company “has been a longtime corporate partner in Tupelo that has consistently outperformed their promises in terms of jobs creation.”
Reeves said the belief was that Cooper was too important to both the economy of Northeast Mississippi and the entire state to not take steps to ensure it continued to operate in Tupelo.
Under the proposal, if an agreement is reached with Cooper, the company would receive $8 million during the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, followed by $6 million each in the next two years.
Sen. J.P. Wilemon, D-Belmont, said there have been efforts for the past three years to garner state funds to help the local effort in Tremont to build a Tammy Wynette Museum.
Rep. Donnie Bell, R-Fulton said the museum would be a boost to the tourism industry not only in Northeast Mississippi, but also statewide.
The William Faulkner/Union Heritage Museum in New Albany also received $500,000.
The universities garnered $92.8 million for building and renovation projects while the community colleges received $23 million.
It was not clear late Saturday what other projects were in the massive bill.