- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi lawmakers on Thursday approved hundreds of millions of dollars of state money and incentives for a tire plant in western Hinds County and a shipyard in Gulfport.

German tire and auto-parts maker Continental AG will invest $1.45 billion in a plant that one lawmaker called the largest tire plant in North America. It will eventually hire up to 2,500 people, said Mississippi Development Authority Director Glenn McCullough.

Louisiana-based Edison Chouest will invest $68 million to expand its presence in Gulfport at the Topship shipyard, hiring up to 1,000 workers. The company makes oilfield service vessels.

“This is a day that Mississippians who desire economic opportunity should rejoice over,” said McCullough, minutes after state senators gave final approval to the package.

Gov. Phil Bryant plans to hold announcement ceremonies Monday in Gulfport and at a site between Clinton and Bolton.

Spokesman Clay Chandler said Bryant will sign the bill Friday or later.

The approvals came in a special session that Bryant called for lawmakers Wednesday during a recess in the regular session.

McCullough and Bryant both said it was the largest economic development announcement in a single day in Mississippi history. Nissan Motor Co., which kicked off the state’s modern era of megadeals, has grown larger than the Continental Tire deal in both investment and jobs through repeated expansions.

McCullough said Continental had originally been shopping for sites for two separate projects, but combined it into one megaproject because the company liked the Hinds County site near two major east-west transportation routes, Interstate 20 and the Kansas City Southern Railway.

Mississippi would borrow $263 million to buy, clear and grade 900 acres of land for Continental, as well as contribute to building a 5 million square-foot plant. It would also build a new interchange off I-20. Hinds County would repay $20 million of those bonds.

Beyond the borrowing, the state would also grant breaks on income and franchise tax, as well as return 3.5 percentage points of income tax collections from workers to the company over 25 years. The franchise tax cap and the income tax rebate could each be worth more than $75 million over that time. Hinds County and the Clinton school district would also waive two-thirds of property taxes for 10 years. A lawyer for Hinds County couldn’t immediately say what that break was worth.

Bob Neal, an economist for the state College Board, said even with those tax breaks, he projected state tax revenue would come out $487 million ahead by 2040.

The state would borrow $11 million to finance worker training and incentives at Topship. That company would also get additional tax breaks, although fewer than the tire plant.

A handful of lawmakers questioned those tax breaks, as well as the speed with which the package was moved through the Legislature in a 196-page bill (https://bit.ly/1SKvVAd ).

“Is there any amount of money we will not pay someone to come and put something in Mississippi?” asked Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory. Bryan voted for the bill, saying he didn’t want to undermine the governor.


Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy . Read his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-amy

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