New manufacturer headed to Lowndes County

August 29, 2011 4:18:00 PM

Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]


A new manufacturing facility is coming to Lowndes County, but until Wednesday, the most Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins will say about the company is it''s big -- possibly bigger than Severstal or Paccar.  


Likewise, Gov. Haley Barbour''s office is remaining taciturn on the impending announcement, saying only that the governor will hold a special session of the Legislature Friday to approve an incentive package for this project and possibly one other. The timing of the announcement coincides with the Bond Commission meeting Sept. 19, meaning the projects -- and requisite hiring -- could begin this winter.  


With the state unemployment level hovering at 11.1 percent for July, and the Lowndes County July unemployment rate sitting at 12.4 percent -- well above the 9.1 percent national average -- jobs are welcome news.  


Higgins summoned members of the local media to the Link offices Monday to brief them on Wednesday''s announcement.  


"Everybody is going to be a little bit surprised," he said of the project. 


Though he didn''t say so outright, Higgins'' comments suggested the other finalist for the unnamed project''s site location was a city in Ohio.  


He noted that this will be Gov. Barbour''s fifth special session call for industrial development reasons in the past eight years. The previous four have been twice for Severstal and once for Paccar and Kior.  


So who''s coming, and -- more importantly -- what will it mean to the area?  


No one is confirming or denying any names, but one company widely reported to have cast an interested glance at Columbus is California-based solar silicon manufacturer Calisolar.  


The company, headed by CEO John Correnti -- former CEO of SeverCorr (now Severstal) of Columbus -- was reputedly looking at both Ohio and Mississippi to locate "a large scale 16000 MT (metric ton) solar silicon facility," according to April reports by the Mansfield News Journal in Mansfield, Ohio.  


However, in July, during final negotiations, the deal fell through. Company officials told the Ohio newspaper they were not able to meet a September construction deadline to qualify for a $275 million federal loan guarantee.  


Calisolar had indicated to Ohioans that the facility could create between 830 and 1,300 jobs at the new location. The company is headquartered in the Silicon Valley city of Sunnyvale, Calif., and has divisions in Canada and Germany.

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.