August 15, 2013 10:43:29 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Mississippi State University officials confirmed Wednesday that Yokohama Tire will locate its operations at the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park while the first phase of construction for the Japanese tire manufacturing company's Clay County facility takes place.
The company lease of a 7,500-square-foot space in the park's Industry Partners Building began earlier this month. Up to 70 Yokohama employees will eventually move in beginning next month after equipment and offices are set up, said Marc McGee, director of the MSU Research and Technology Corporation.
Yokohama officially entered a financial partnership in April with the state to build a four-phase plant that would create 2,000 jobs and provide the capacity to produce one million tires a year in Clay County once it becomes fully operational in 2023. The first phase of the plant, scheduled for completion in roughly two years, is to provide 500 jobs.
Yokohama will invest $1.2 billion -- $300 million for each phase -- while the state has committed $130 million, including $70 million in the form of general obligation bonds for the first phase.
The plant will be stationed at the Tennessee Valley Authority-certified, 1,100-acre Prairie Belt Powersite.
McGee said as construction begins later this year, MSU is excited about having the company located at the park.
"This is going to help really strengthen and grow our relationship with opportunities for student placement with jobs and also with research and development opportunities between the university and Yokohama," McGee said. "As they move forward with development of their plant, we're going to look to see how we can foster the opportunities with the university and the community."
McGee said the company is evaluating research and development opportunities as well, whether those are with MSU's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems or with programs including chemical engineering.
As for the employees relocating to Starkville, McGee said he and other MSU leaders look forward to helping them adjust to their new home.
"They're going to be looking for places to live and places for their kids to go to school," McGee said. "We're here to help them in what they need from us, but at the same time we want to see what opportunities exist for creating a very strong link between Yokohama and the university."
MSU vice president for research and economic development David Shaw said in a university release that he looks forward to working with company leaders as the project progresses.
"Yokohama Tire's decision to build in the Golden Triangle is a very strong example of how a major research university is a significant economic development asset," Shaw said.
The Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park is a partnership between MSU, Oktibbeha County and the city of Starkville. MSU oversees daily operations of the 272-acre, nine-building facility.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.