January 14, 2021 10:35:37 AM
The Golden Triangle Development LINK will ask the Lowndes County supervisors Friday for a sewer line extension at the county's industrial park, in preparation for an automotive company to potentially make its home there, LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said.
It's one of six companies seriously considering locations in Lowndes County, with a total capital investment of $2.3 billion if all six seal the deal, Higgins first mentioned to the Columbus Rotary Club on Tuesday and confirmed to The Dispatch on Wednesday.
"With the exception of one, maybe two, they're deep, deep into the process," Higgins told The Dispatch. "In other words, if they pick us, they're going to start building this year."
The LINK is contracted to lead industrial recruitment and development efforts in the area.
Five prospects are aiming for the Lowndes County Industrial Park near Golden Triangle Regional Airport, and the sixth is looking at the Lowndes County Port, Higgins said. Supervisors say they are looking forward to the industrial growth.
"It would be a shot in the arm if we could get it," District 3 Supervisor and Board Vice President John Holliman said. "One of them is kind of in the first stages and is a real huge project. Anything of that size that comes to the county (will) be good for everybody, good for the workforce."
Higgins described two of the prospects at the industrial park as "whales," one with a capital investment of $1 billion and the other with just less than $900 million. The automotive plant Higgins is presenting Friday is among the smaller of the six prospects.
The prospect the LINK will present to the supervisors Friday is the closest of the six to being a done deal, Higgins said, and he will ask the board to vote on $25 million of capital investment in a multi-phase project.
Four of the six prospects, including the one at the port, will be eligible for fee-in-lieu of taxes (FILOT) agreements because the capital investment will be at least $60 million, Higgins said. The LINK will approach the supervisors to request FILOT agreements for those projects when the time is right for each of them, he said.
In a FILOT agreement, companies are exempt from property taxes for up to 10 years in exchange for a fee paid to the city, county and school district. State law dictates that the fee cannot be less than one-third of what a company would ordinarily pay in taxes. The Mississippi Development Authority has to authorize all fee-in-lieu agreements.
The supervisors unanimously approved a FILOT agreement with an unidentified solar power provider in November. The planned solar farm would be located west of the county's Infinity Megasite in the western part of the county.
Supervisors told The Dispatch they expect to continue to approve the LINK's FILOT requests.
"My standard mode of operations when (Higgins) comes to us with projects and explains them to us is that I tend to be very supportive," District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said.
He also said he is excited and "overwhelmed" by companies' interest in Lowndes County because "it's been a while" since the county saw a large capital investment.
Board President Trip Hairston of District 2 said the potential spike in industrial growth will be good for the county's tax base and job prospects, and the appeal of the industrial park is a good sign for the county as well.
"We're open for business, and it's nice to see that people are interested in looking at what we have to offer," Hairston said. "We have a lot to offer, really good infrastructure, and we're poised to really grow."
None of the six prospects are set in stone, but most are doing their "due diligence," including one company paying $500,000 for a site, Higgins said, and one of the two largest prospects directly solicited a proposal from the LINK.
"It's not like they're looking at 500 towns and we might get picked," Higgins said. "They hand-selected a few towns and we're one of them."
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