August 7, 2012 9:53:46 AM
Lowndes County's relationship with Silicor Materials is not unlike that of a level-headed maiden being courted by a worldly suitor: Professions of undying love are all good and well. But at some point, she wants to see a ring.
It has been 11 months since Silicor came dashing into Lowndes County, making promises of lots of good jobs and an enormous boost to the local economy.
But to date, none of those promises have been fulfilled. Back in March, Silicor officials estimated that work on the project would begin in June. Now, almost a year later, virtually nothing has been done at the 258-acre site east of Industrial Park Road.
The delays, combined with Silicor's past -- a previous "jilted lover'' in Ohio -- are enough to make a girl very wary.
In the initial agreement, state lawmakers approved a $75.25 million incentive package to lure Silicor to town. In addition, Lowndes County ponied up another $19 million in incentives. In exchange, Silicor agreed to build a 1-million square foot facility.
In order to qualify for those incentives, Silicor was to have started work on Phase 1 of its construction by Sept. 2 and Phase 2 by Dec. 31.
Last week, when it was obvious that no work has been done on the project, local officials seemed inclined to give Silicor some wiggle room to secure the financing required to begin the project.
With more than $94 million in incentives on the line, that's more than generous. In fact, it's a little too trusting.
That is why the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors actions on Monday are comforting.
"Trust but verify," Reagan called it.
No Silicor representative was at Monday's Board meeting. At this point, some are beginning to wonder if Silicor isn't, in fact, an 8-foot tall imaginary rabbit. However, Link CEO Joe Max Higgins, who brokered the deal to bring Silicor to Columbus, advocated before the Board for permitting Silicor more time. The Board agreed to a new deadline for start-up construction, which will be Dec. 31. Silicor representatives are required to meet with the Board's representatives in September, October and November to get updates on Silicor's progress.
The time has passed for vague assurances that "things will get done." Silicor must demonstrate it is prepared to start making good on its promises. If it doesn't, well, there's more than one fish in the sea, after all.
The Board's approach seems appropriate to the circumstances. It exerts just the right amount of pressure without threatening a break-up.
The Board certainly doesn't want to chase off a promising suitor.
But at some point, it wants to see a ring.
2. Possumhaw: Here today, gone tomorrow LOCAL COLUMNS