By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Booneville and Prentiss County officials say they are excited that because of today’s special legislative session their area could get a new manufacturing plant employing 200 people.
But they caution that additional work is necessary to ensure they get the company.
“Our area is excited to be mentioned by the governor as a potential location” for an HCL Clean Tech manufacturing plant, said Leon Hays, executive director of the Prentiss County Development Association.
The company will convert wood chips from pine trees to sugar products that can be used in a number of areas, such as for animal nutrition, lubricants and even fuel.
“We’re looking forward to working with the company as we go forward to address infrastructure needs” and other concerns, Hays said.
Gov. Haley Barbour has called a special session for today for legislators to consider bond proposals totaling $175 million to entice two manufacturers to the state. The two projects – HCL and Calisolar – are expected to provide 1,750 jobs.
In his news release announcing the special session, he said HCL Clean Tech planned to locate a headquarters facility in Olive Branch near the Memphis International Airport and a research and development/manufacturing operation in Grenada with the intention of location larger manufacturing plants in the Booneville, Hattiesburg and Natchez areas.
Whitt Hughes, deputy director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said HCL Clean Tech will consider proximity to pine trees and available transportation outlets in deciding on the three locations for the larger manufacturing plants.
“These are areas of interest as identified by the company and the ultimate site locations remain to be seen,” Hughes said.
Hughes explained the projects Thursday afternoon to members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. The bonds to fund the projects will go through those committees today.
Hughes said the three HCL locations will be built in 2015, 2017 and 2019 and it is not known where the company would build first. But the Booneville area would be the closest to the Olive Branch headquarters and the Grenada research and development center.
The proposal calls for providing HCL a $95 million loan and $5 million grant for training, infrastructure and equipment assistance.
“We’re excited about the announcement,” said Booneville Mayor Joe Eaton. “It has been quite a while since we have had an announcement like that … But we need to make sure we do the things we need to do to assist the economic development groups in Prentiss County on this project.”
There was no real opposition expressed by legislators during Thursday’s hearings to passing bonds to lure the projects to the state. Some black legislators expressed concern that state economic development officials were not doing enough to ensure that minority contractors were able to participate in the building of the plants and in other aspects of servicing the facilities.
Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, also expressed concerns about the practice of passing bonds and incurring long-term debt to provide training funds. MDA officials said other funds for training were not available.
The other project that will be considered today is a Calisolar, which will locate in the Columbus area a plant that will build silicon metal that will be used in a number of areas, ranging from solar cell producers to the automotive, electronics and energy sectors.
The governor is asking for a $75.3 million bond issue for Calisolar, which will consist of a $59.5 million loan, $11.3 million grant for infrastructure and $4.5 million for training.
Also on Thursday, MDA announced that the special session would include a proposal that could provide a tax rebate of as much as $15 million over 10 years for Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula if it adds 3,000 jobs.
Average salary: $45,000, plus benefits
State bonds requested: $75.3 million
Company investment: $600 million
Type of manufacturing: Making a
silicon metal and solar silicon
HCL CLEAN TECH
Location: Oliva Branch and Grenada,
with intent to locate larger plants in
Booneville, Natchez and Hattiesburg
Average salary: $67,000, plus benefits
State bonds requested: $100 million
Company investment: $1 billion
Type of manufacturing: Converting
wood chips to cellulosic sugars