By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Lee County’s Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously endorsed a requested $18.8 million in tax breaks for Cooper Tire as part of a state incentive package to help ensure at least 1,300 jobs in Tupelo for the next decade.
Supervisors met with Community Development Foundation leaders in closed session for roughly 20 minutes before unanimously passing the resolution.
Combined state and local tax breaks and cash incentives seek to convince Cooper Tire to invest $140 million in modernization funds at the Tupelo site during the next three to five years.
The company also has plants in China and Mexico and has asked local governments in each of the three locations for incentives to help decide where to invest resources for the modernization project.
The Lee County Board of Supervisors resolution said potential upgrades to the Mississippi tire plant include certification as an “original equipment manufacturer” to major automotive manufacturers, an effort to secure future production.
The agreement requires Cooper Tire maintain 1,300 jobs during a 10-year period involving workers receiving an average annual pay of more than $48,077.
“They promise 1,300 jobs but will likely deliver more,” said Darrell Rankin, Lee County supervisors president.
Cooper Tire’s funding request to state government includes $20 million in state funds in three increments, the last in 2016. Roy Armes, CEO of the Findlay, Ohio-based company, met with Gov. Phil Bryant and other state leaders last week to discuss the request.
In 2007, Cooper Tire received $7 million in state money and additional local support for construction of new facilities at the Tupelo site. That agreement included Cooper agreeing to invest $30 million and keeping at least 1,200 jobs in Tupelo.
CDF officials said the tire company exceeded that commitment, adding $70 million in upgrades and having 1,600 employees.