Supervisors clear path for CalStar deal

April 17, 2013 9:48:36 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


A potential agreement between Lowndes County, the Mississippi Development Authority and Delaware-based sustainable building material manufacturer CalStar Products would create at least 58 jobs and possibly up to 100 within the next three years, Golden Triangle Development Link CEO Joe Max Higgins said Monday. 


Lowndes County supervisors unanimously approved documents related to leasing a yet-to-be-constructed building to the company, applying for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for site construction and a memorandum of understanding at Higgins' request. 


An agreement for sale of real estate between CalStar and industrial developer Agracel, which the Link partnered with to build a facility in Golden Triangle Industrial Park, hands the 23.4-acre site to CalStar for $2.85 million. Earnest money in the sum of $150,000 has been transferred already for CalStar to keep Agracel from leasing the property to another prospect.  


Higgins said the Link had been marketing the site to prospects for nearly five years. 


The memorandum of understanding tasks the county with applying for a 20-year, $5.35 million CAP loan through MDA to acquire the property for $2.85 million and use the remainder of the loan to assist with construction of the facility. CalStar must provide a letter of commitment by June 7 from lenders to provide the company $5 million in debt financing for additional funding to complete the project. 


The county will also apply for $1.25 million in CDBG funding for additional property improvements. Once the facility is complete, the county would lease it to CalStar and have the option to transfer it to the Lowndes County Industrial Development Authority. 


Higgins said as part of the agreement, CalStar would have to maintain the jobs they create and failure to do so would result in financial penalties. 


"Several months ago CalStar came in and started looking into doing their southeast search of locations for their second facility," Higgins said. "We fully expect this project to create 100 jobs when it's completed, but for CDBG purposes, (58) is the number that's required to guarantee the grant we're requesting." 


Information on CalStar's website states the company develops exterior masonry products that "allow green architects and specifiers to dramatically reduce the energy and (carbon dioxide) footprint of their projects and incorporate significant recycled materials, without compromising building performance or budgets." 


Higgins said those products include pavers and bricks used for facades, streetscapes and parking lots. 


In other business, the board officially established the Lowndes County Reserve and Trust Fund. As a condition of Mississippi Senate Bill 2702, which authorized the county to establish such a fund similar to one previously given state approval in Lafayette County, all supervisors serve as trustees of the fund. 


The board also established an ad hoc committee to solicit proposals from financial firms to manage the fund. The committee will consist of supervisors Harry Sanders and Bill Brigham, who is a retired Cadence Bank vice president. Also on the committee will be county chief financial officer Dave Basinger, county administrator Ralph Billingsley and county attorney Tim Hudson. Sanders said the committee would be tasked with narrowing the proposals they receive down to at least the three best fits for the role. 


"We have dropped the ball many times when we advertise. We put it in the paper and that's the only thing we do," Sanders said. "We need to make phone calls and we need to actively solicit people, because the more we've got involved in it, the better results we get. There's a lot of financial institutions that I'm sure would be interested in managing $30 million," he said, adding that the county would have the option of splitting funds between multiple financial managers. 


Board members also approved a previously tabled request from District 1 Volunteer Fire Department to purchase land where a new main station can be built. The 3.24-acre parcel at the corner of Lawrence Street and Main Street in Caledonia will allow the department to address concerns of outgrowing its current facility while facilitating training for firefighters and improving services for residents. 


District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks was absent from the meeting.

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.