Ole Miss buys vacant Whirlpool plant

OXFORD – The state College Board has approved the University of Mississippi’s proposal to buy a 68.72-acre property from Whirlpool Corp. that would give additional access to another tract of university land south of Mississippi Highway 6.
“I’d say the plans are more long term than short term,” said Larry Sparks, Ole Miss vice chancellor for finance and administration. “It’s contiguous with land we already own, and it already has utilities on the site as well as other infrastructure.”
With the purchase, the university can get to its “Hathorn property,” as the research park site is known, from either Old Taylor Road or Coliseum Drive.
The $3.4 million purchase price was more than $1.6 million under the appraised value and a fraction of the $10 million estimated cost of a bridge linking the main campus with the planned research park.
MDOT officials did not support the bridge proposal.
Some of the site’s older buildings will likely be demolished, Sparks said.
“We’ll start using the newer buildings for storage and other purposes,” he said. “That will free up other space on the main campus for our academic mission.”
Whirlpool employed as many as 700 people at its Oxford location before it was closed in March 2009. Efforts to find another occupant have been unsuccessful.
“I think at full bore, somewhere around 700 jobs, Whirlpool had a $20 million payroll,” said Max Hipp, president and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette Economic Development Foundation. “It’s a considerable blow to the school systems and the local base, but the payroll was the biggest loss.”
As has been reported often of late, the community stands to gain another 1,000 industrial jobs and some additional tax base, however, when Olin Corp. moves its Winchester centerfire ammunition operation to Oxford over the next five years.
A TVA study has estimated the value of its payroll at some $36 million per year, Hipp said.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal