By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Various sources have confirmed that the Legislature will take up incentives in Friday’s special session to lure a major foreign tire manufacturing plant to Clay County.
But officials say information on the size of the incentive package will not be made available to the public until just before lawmakers convene.
Gov. Phil Bryant announced Wednesday morning he was calling the special session “to consider an economic development package that will bring needed jobs to our state. This is an exciting project and a great testament to the quality of our workforce.”
The Republican governor has not released any other details. But House Ways and Means Chair Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, said the project would be on the scale of the major automotive manufacturing plants – Nissan and Toyota – that have located in the state in the past decade.
“This is really a big deal as far as size,” said Smith, who would not confirm other reports that the plant would manufacturer tires and that it would be located in Clay County. He also said the hope is that the manufacturer locating in the state could lure another auto manufacturer.
Various reports said that the yet-to-be named tire manufacturer would bring as many as 800 jobs to jobs-starved Clay County, but Smith said the number would exceed that. He also said the company’s investment in the area would rival that of Nissan near Canton in the early 2000s and Toyota in Blue Springs in 2007. Both invested more than $1 billion into manufacturing plants.
But Smith said the incentive package provided to lure the plant to the state would be less than the $78,000-per-job Nissan received in the early 2000s.
The plant will be welcomed news to Clay County, which has perennially had the state’s highest unemployment rate since the Sara Lee meat processing plant closed in March 2007, leaving 1,200 people in the area without jobs.
“In this difficult and fragile national economy, creating an environment that encourages job creation has been our No. 1 priority,” said Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who praised Bryant and Mississippi Development Authority officials for working “closely” with the legislative leadership on the project.
Reeves added, “I anticipate the Senate will be eager to pass the proposed incentives. I fully support the project.”
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, also praised the project.
“It’s always exciting when we are looking at creating jobs in Mississippi,” Gunn said.
House Minority Leader Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said he supports the project, but wished that more information would be available before the Legislature goes into session Friday.
But, “take that up with the people running the ship,” Moak said.
MDA Executive Director Brent Christensen has invited legislators to “a confidential briefing” closed to the public tonight at a private Jackson reception hall.
Mick Bullock, a spokesman for Bryant, said information on the incentive package will not be available to the public until Friday morning. The plan of the leadership is for the package to be passed Friday in a one-day special session.
Smith said company officials wanted to keep details of the project secret.