Mississippi Governor Seeks $240M in Aid for Economic Project

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that he will ask legislators to approve about $240 million in state incentives for an economic development project in the northern part of the state.

The Republican governor declined to name the company, saying he had signed a nondisclosure agreement.

“Once we get through the legislative process and once we get final agreements signed, we will announce that the deal is done,” he said during a news conference.

Reeves said the company is large and “has a long history of success.”

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Mississippi governors often have quick timelines to push incentives packages through the Legislature for large economic development projects, and it’s not unusual for them to try to keep company names secret until deals are complete.

Some legislators have raised concerns about the special session that begins Wednesday.

“We don’t have many details at the moment, but we’re concerned that GOP leaders will try to push some kind of corporate welfare package through with little debate or oversight,” Republican Rep. Dana Criswell of Olive Branch, a member of the Mississippi Freedom Caucus, said in an email Tuesday.

Reeves announced Monday that he is calling legislators to the Capitol to consider incentives for a company that would create 1,000 jobs within the next few years. He said the average salary would be $93,000 — significantly higher than than the average pay for jobs in one of the poorest states in the U.S.

The project includes “a flat-rolled aluminum production facility, biocarbon production facilities and certain other industrial facilities,” Reeves said in a news release. The facilities would be in the Golden Triangle area, which encompasses Columbus, Starkville and West Point and is near the Alabama border.

The proposed state incentive package includes $155 million in direct contributions, about $25 million for roads in and around the project site, money to help purchase land and income tax rebates, Reeves said Tuesday.

He said many legislators “probably have a pretty good idea who the company is” and the project could attract other businesses.

“This is going to be transformative for that region of our state,” Reeves said.

The governor said the company would spend $2.5 billion, which would be the largest up-front investment to date for a company seeking state incentives to locate in Mississippi.

The previous record was in 2016, when Continental Tire announced a $1.45 billion investment to build a manufacturing plant in central Mississippi. The German company promised 2,500 jobs with an average pay of about $40,000 a year.

During a 2016 special session, legislators approved $263 million in borrowing for Continental, including $20 million to be repaid by Hinds County. With other tax breaks and aid, The Associated Press estimated the value of all incentives to Continental would exceed $600 million. The Continental plant opened in 2019.

Reeves said conversations about the new project began less than four months ago.

He said the state will have “aggressive” provisions to recover its investment if the company does not fulfill promises. Republicans control the Mississippi House and Senate. Reeves said he hopes members from both parties will support the project.

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