Video: Lowndes Tells Company to Put Up or Shut Up

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LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) — Lowndes County tells a potential industry to put up or shut up.

Golden Triangle Link Director Joe Higgins told supervisors today that after two years of work, founders of the start-up company Silicorr Materials still have not arranged financing for a multi-million dollar project that could eventually bring 900 jobs to the area.

Higgins says the company continues to miss deadlines and has refused to put up a $150,000 show of good faith to continue the county’s effort to make the project happen.

Higgins recommended supervisors give the company until the end of the year to put up the money or cut off more than $90 million in state and local incentives.  Those incentives are tying up county resources from being used to attract other jobs and industries, Higgins said.

The company first promised more than $600 million in investment making silicon metal and purification products for the solar and related industries. It said it eventually would bring as many as 900 jobs and the Legislature, meeting in special session in September 2011, approved a variety of incentives to help the company, which is being pushed by John Correnti, who founded what was then SeverCorr — now Severstal — in Lowndes County.

The company later moved from one site to 90 acres behind the Weyerhaueser plant on Artesia Road and divided the project into two phases, the first promising a $200 million investment and 200 jobs with a minimum $9 million annual payroll.

The second phase would be built on an adjacent 150 acres the county took out under an option to buy.

County officials began to get concerned about the viability of the project after the company changed its name and investors and missed deadlines last summer. The county agreed to extend the company’s deadline for progress from Sept. 2 to the end of this year after a new financial institution and equipment manufacturer came on board and expressed serious interest in the project.

Those companies have only just recently begun their due-diligence studying the project and have told local and state officials it likely would be at least April before financing could be finalized.

But today, Higgins told supervisors it’s time to “fish or cut bait” because the county is tying up assets promised to the company that could be used to recruit other industries.

He said the company was asked to put up the non-refundable $150,000 as a show of good faith and to help the county recoup some of the costs expended on the project should the deal never come to fruition. The company hasn’t done that. It also hasn’t put up $50,000 to extend the option on the 150 acres; that option expires Dec. 31.

“This is becoming a disservice to the taxpayers of Lowndes County,” Higgins said in recommending the deadline that could result in the county pulling the plug on its support for the project.

At stake for the company is approximately $19 million in financial incentives from Lowndes County.

State lawmakers awarded a $75.25 million incentive package to the company last September, including a $59.5 million equipment and construction loan, $11.25 million for infrastructure and $4.5 million for local work force training.

The company already has told local officials it might consider looking for another location for its investment.

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