Mississippi Silicon tries again in Burnsville

djournal-In-the-NewsBy Dennis Seid

Daily Journal

For the second time in three years, a company is promising to build a silicon metal production facility and add hundreds of jobs.

Only this time, officials say it will be in Burnsville.

In 2011, the company, Mississippi Silicon, eyed Lowndes County for a similar project.

On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bryant said Mississippi Silicon would invest $200 million in a “high-tech facility” in Burnsville in Tishomingo County that would be “one of the most efficient and cost-competitive silicon metal production facilities in the world.”

The plant, which will take 18-20 months to build, according to company officials, will employ 200.

In 2011, Silicor Materials promised to deliver similar results. But the project, which had mustered up to $75 million in state incentives, never came to fruition.

Silicor, which named its Mississippi operations Mississippi Silicon, missed a Dec. 31, 2012 deadline to put $150,000 in an escrow account for the plant in Lowndes County, which was willing to put up another $19 million in long-term property tax abatements. But the company had several deadlines pushed back and never made the deposit.

In January 2013, Silicor said it still was committed to building in Mississippi – only not in Lowndes County. It didn’t address why the project didn’t pan out there.

However, David Tuten, the president and CEO of Mississippi Silicon, said Tuesday that Burnsville was the ideal location for the resurrected project.

“The difference is that the site is a much more preferable site, with direct access to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in the Yellow Creek Port area,” he said. “That was the biggest reason. And of course proximity to a TVA line.”

Financing was not an issue, Tuten said. Because the Lowndes County project fell through, MDA didn’t release the $75 million it had made available.

This time, the state financial incentives are less.

According to the MDA, for the Burnsville project, the state is providing a total of $21.15 million for building construction and workforce training, as well as a $3.5 million loan to Tishomingo County for infrastructure needs.

The Burnsville plant will produce silicon metal for a broad range of industries in the U.S., including the aluminum, automotive and chemical industries.

FAMILIAR FACE

Mississippi Silicon has a familiar face involved with its operations – John Correnti, who successfully launched what is now the Severstal steel mill in Columbus. He is chairman of the board for Mississippi Silicon.

Correnti also led unsuccessful efforts to build steel rebar facilities in Columbus and in Amory.

“The tremendous support at the local and state levels was a key factor in the decision to locate our operations in Tishomingo County,” he said in the press release. “Mississippi Silicon looks forward to becoming an engine of economic growth in Northeast Mississippi.”

Correnti headed the effort to build in Lowndes County, as well as an earlier attempt in Ohio.

In September 2011, he led a group of investors looking to have California-based Calisolar (which later was renamed Silicor Materials) locate in Lowndes County.

That happened not long after Calisolar withdrew from building a facility in Ohio. That project had received a $275 million U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee. But Calisolar was unable to begin building by Sept. 30 of that year to meet the loan guarantee requirements, reports said.

Calisolar instead said it would build a $600 million plant in Lowndes County, with $75.5 million in state incentives, which included a $59.5 million loan for equipment and buildings, an $11.25 million grant and $4.5 million in workforce training. The plant was to produce 951 jobs.

In February 2012, Calisolar was renamed Silicor Materials.

The Lowndes County was split into two phases – Mississippi Silicon was the metal silicon production, while the second phase would include a silicon purification plant.

MDA officials said Tuesday there is a second phase to this newest project, but declined to give details. Tuten said plans call for a future expansion “five to seven years” down the road, depending on business, but also declined to provide additional details.

Investors in the Burnsville project include Rima Holdings USA Inc. and Clean Tech I LLC.

Rima Holdings USA is a subsidiary of Brazil-based Rima Industrial S/A in Brazil, which employs more than 4,000 workers in diecasting, magnesium, silicon metal, and ferroalloys.

dennis.seid@journalinc.com