April 26, 2013 2:08:37 PM
The Mississippi House and Senate has passed an economic incentive package that will bring a Yokohama Rubber Co., plant to Clay County.
Construction of the multi-phase project is scheduled to begin this fall with an estimated time line to begin operations in 2015. The Japan-based company is expected to create at least 500 jobs in the project's first phase and at least 2,000 once all phases are completed. Bill author Rep. Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, projected the plant to be operating at full capacity by 2023.
Mississippi will issue a $70 million general obligation bond for the first two phases of the project and an extra $60 million for future phases.
Of that, the state will use $9.5 million to purchase land, $48 million for infrastructure and site preparation and $11.75 million for a training center.
Yokohama will invest $1.2 billion -- $300 million for each phase -- in its new location to be stationed in the county's 1,100-acre Prairie Belt Powersite. The Tennessee Valley Authority-certified megasite is located northeast of West Point.
The package allows Yokohama to pay an in-lieu fee of one third of the full amount of ad valorem taxes. It also sends $900,000 yearly to the recently consolidated Clay County and West Point school districts.
Each phase of the project has "claw back" clauses that provide additional bonding only when the company meets contractual benchmarks, including meeting the 500-employee quota for each phase. The average employee salary will amount to $35,000, so the clause would mandate Yokohama to pay the state back that much for each job not created, Smith said.
The second and third phases are said to begin operation in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
Construction of the operation's first phase is set to begin this fall.
The Mississippi House, which voted 117-2 to pass the incentive package, rejected an amendment from Rep. Steve Holland, D-Tupelo, to provide some of the same incentives in this package to Cooper Tire in Tupelo.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill. Sen. Angela Turner, D-West Point, referenced the hit the city and Clay County have taken in recent years due to plant closures leading to increased unemployment and said she was excited to see the project coming to her district, it was a major project for the state as a whole.
The latest unemployment figures, released by the state earlier this week, showed unemployment in Clay County at 18.2 percent.
"We are certainly appreciative everybody in support and the citizens of West Point and Clay County," Turner said. "There are neighboring areas who can also benefit from this opportunity."
At full steam, Smith said, the plant would produce about 1 million tires a year.