February 27, 2014 11:08:51 AM
JACKSON -- The state of Mississippi is proposing to give $12 million to Middleby Corp., the owner of Greenwood's Viking Range, to help pay for an expansion.
The House passed House Bill 1592 Wednesday.
State Rep. Linda Whittington, a Schlater Democrat, says the state would put up $12 million in return for a $20 million investment by the upscale kitchen appliance maker, mainly in new equipment. Middleby, based in Elgin, Ill., would hire 120 people and maintain 600 total jobs to get an unspecified amount of money.
State records show 175 workers were laid off by Viking since Middleby bought it for $362 million in late 2012, shattering the once-paternal image of the company. Whittington said she understands the company has about 500 employees at the factory today. Viking also employs people at the Alluvian Hotel and a cooking school in downtown Greenwood.
Sen Lydia Chassaniol, R-Winona, said she didn't think the layoffs should disqualify the company from getting state aid.
"I think it was a pure business decision," she said. "It would be an opportunity to hire back some or all of those folks."
Whittington said that as part of a meeting between Middleby and local officials in December, the company had agreed to restore some other aspects of its former civic participation, for example turning on its Christmas lights.
"I don't want to lose jobs in Greenwood," Whittington said. "Not only do we try to lure businesses here, but when businesses in the state have been established and need some help, we need some help."
The Mississippi Development Authority declined to discuss the details of the bill.
"MDA will uphold legislation that offers support to Mississippi's existing industries," is all spokeswoman Marlo Dorsey would say.
Middleby did not respond to requests for comment.
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