August 7, 2012 10:00:12 AM
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors Monday voted to give Silicor Materials an extension to meet terms of a local incentive package.
An agreement with Silicor Materials, which formerly was Calisolar, stipulated Phase 1 construction should have begun by Sept. 2 and Phase 2 construction would begin by Dec. 31 or forfeit a $94.25 million incentive agreement with the county and state.
Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins reported the company would not meet its Sept. 2 deadline.
"It's a two-edged sword," he said. "We want to give each company every opportunity to be successful. But we cannot commit resources to a project and leave them open-ended. The company needs to recognize we cannot have a resource obligated to them in perpetuity."
On Higgins' recommendation, the supervisors gave the company a conditional extension until Dec. 31, based on the meeting of "certain milestones."
Additionally, the supervisors voted to appoint Board Attorney Tim Hudson, Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders, County Administrator Ralph Billingsley and District 2 Supervisor Bill Brigham to a committee to help ensure accountability from Silicor.
The committee, along with representatives of other entities such as 4-County Electric Power Association who have vested interests in the project, will meet "face-to-face" monthly with Silicor Materials officials to ensure progress is being made on construction of Phase 1 of the project, which is a silicon metals plant.
The company has until June 1, 2013 to begin Phase 2 of the project, which is a silicon purification plant.
"This project has not progressed to my expectations," Higgins said. "They have not lived up to their end of the bargain yet. We're going to give them one more opportunity.
"We need to start the project and build it or we need to reconsider where we are," he added.
State lawmakers last September approved a $75.25 million incentive package for the company, including a $59.5 million equipment and construction loan, $11.25 million for infrastructure and $4.5 million for local workforce training. Lowndes County gave an additional $19 million in financial incentives.
Silicor officials agreed to build a 1 million-square-foot metal production and purification facility on 258 acres of land east of Industrial Park Road and is required to invest at least $500 million on the two-phased project, promising 951 full-time jobs with an average salary of $45,000.
In other matters, Higgins also reported an expansion by Aurora Flight Sciences.
The county will loan $9 million in state funds to Aurora Flight Sciences for a building expansion and equipment.
Also, the company will hire additional personnel to bring the total to 365 employees making annual salaries of $45,000.
"We can lend the money to Aurora, but the state can't do it," Sanders explained. "Somehow it's got to pass through us."
And Higgins reported a tax-in-lieu-of-financing (TIF) grant was increased for Columbus Properties, LLC.
Developer Mark Castleberry explained the grant's maximum increased from $3 million to $3.845 million and is payable only if the project is completed.
The money will be used to add a third hotel -- a Hampton Inn and Suites -- to a site on 18th Avenue North, which currently houses a Fairfield Inn.
The new hotel will be about the same size as the Fairfield, Castleberry said, and construction likely will begin at the end of this year or early 2013.
Construction on a 110-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel on the site is scheduled to begin next month.
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