January 4, 2014 10:10:40 PM
TUPELO -- For the second time in three years, a company is promising to build a silicon metal production facility and add hundreds of jobs in Mississippi.
Only this time, officials say it will be in Burnsville.
In 2011, the company, Mississippi Silicon, eyed Lowndes County for a similar project.
On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Bryant said Mississippi Silicon would invest $200 million in a "high-tech facility" in Burnsville in Tishomingo County that would be "one of the most efficient and cost-competitive silicon metal production facilities in the world."
The plant, which will take 18-20 months to build, according to company officials, will employ 200.
The plant will produce inexpensive polysilicon used in solar cell production.
In 2011, Silicor Materials promised to deliver similar results in Lowndes County. But the project, which had mustered up to $75 million in state incentives, never broke ground.
Silicor, which named its Mississippi operations Mississippi Silicon, missed a Dec. 31, 2012 deadline to put $150,000 in an escrow account for the plant in Lowndes County, which was willing to put up another $19 million in long-term property tax abatements. But the company had several deadlines pushed back and never made the deposit.
Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Golden Triangle Development Link, said that while Lowndes County was waiting on Mississippi Silicon to meet its deadlines, the county did not "make a play" for several other possible industries that were interested in locating here because it had promised available infrastructure to the metal production facility.
Lowndes County, 4-County Electric Power Association and the Lowndes County Industrial Development Authority spent, all together, roughly a quarter of a million dollars trying to get the company to Lowndes County.
On Friday, Higgins said those entities will recoup that money this week. Higgins said he is slated to update the board of supervisors on the situation Monday.
"The Mississippi Development Authority has promised to make us whole," Higgins said.
A year ago, Silicor said it still was committed to building in Mississippi -- only not in Lowndes County.
David Tuten, the president and CEO of Mississippi Silicon, said Tuesday that Burnsville was the ideal location for the resurrected project.
"The difference is that the site is a much more preferable site, with direct access to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in the Yellow Creek Port area," he said. "That was the biggest reason. And of course proximity to a TVA line."
Higgins said describing the Burnsville site as being better than other possible locations is like "me telling you my wife is prettier than yours." He said the Lowndes County site Mississippi Silicon considered was "water, rail, sewer and road ready."
As far as bringing the company to Burnsville, financing was not an issue, Tuten said. Because the Lowndes County project fell through, MDA didn't release the $75 million it had made available.
This time, the state financial incentives are less.
According to the MDA, for the Burnsville project, the state is providing a total of $21.15 million for building construction and workforce training, as well as a $3.5 million loan to Tishomingo County for infrastructure needs.
The Burnsville plant will produce silicon metal for a broad range of industries in the U.S., including the aluminum, automotive and chemical industries.
Mississippi Silicon has a familiar face involved with its operations - John Correnti, who successfully launched what is now the Severstal steel mill in Columbus. He is chairman of the board for Mississippi Silicon.
Correnti also led unsuccessful efforts to build steel rebar facilities in Columbus and in Amory.
"The tremendous support at the local and state levels was a key factor in the decision to locate our operations in Tishomingo County," he said in the press release. "Mississippi Silicon looks forward to becoming an engine of economic growth in Northeast Mississippi."
Correnti headed the effort to build in Lowndes County, as well as an earlier attempt in Ohio.
In September 2011, he led a group of investors looking to have California-based Calisolar (which later was renamed Silicor Materials) locate in Lowndes County.
That happened not long after Calisolar abandoned plans to build a facility in Ohio. That project had received a $275 million U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee. But Calisolar was unable to begin building by Sept. 30 of that year to meet the loan guarantee requirements, reports said.
Calisolar instead said it would build a $600 million plant in Lowndes County, with $75.5 million in state incentives, which included a $59.5 million loan for equipment and buildings, an $11.25 million grant and $4.5 million in workforce training. The plant was to produce 951 jobs.
In February 2012, Calisolar was renamed Silicor Materials.
The Lowndes County project was supposed to be split into two phases -- Mississippi Silicon was the metal silicon production, while the second phase would include a silicon purification plant.
MDA officials said Tuesday there is a second phase to this newest project, but declined to give details. Tuten said plans call for a future expansion "five to seven years" down the road, depending on business, but also declined to provide additional details.
Investors in the Burnsville project include Rima Holdings USA Inc. and Clean Tech I LLC.
Rima Holdings USA is a subsidiary of Brazil-based Rima Industrial S/A in Brazil, which employs more than 4,000 workers in diecasting, magnesium, silicon metal, and ferroalloys.
Dispatch news editor William Browning contributed to this report.
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