Top 10 crony capitalism deals in Mississippi

UP, UP AND AWAY: Megadeals with companies and the state of Mississippi have become a part of the state’s financial landscape.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

A big part of Mississippi’s political landscape has been its willingness to use massive government incentives to lure business. Here’s 10 of the state’s most expensive and sometimes most notorious incentive deals over the past 30 years.

10. Orek vacuum cleaners

Orek built a vacuum cleaner manufacturing plant in Long Beach in 1997 and received a 10-year deal offering tax incentives. When the plant closed in 2007 and moved to Tennessee, the company cited “the increased cost of doing business and the harsh realities of living on the Gulf Coast.” Did those increased costs include the expiration of its tax break?

9. Film production subsidy

The state annually provides a maximum of $20 million per year to subsidize the production of films in Mississippi, including “The Help” and the forthcoming James Brown biopic “Get On Up.”

8. Severstal steel

In 2005, Severcorr received $99 million from the state in grants, loans and tax credits to build a steel mill in Lowndes County.

RIDDLE OF STEEL: The riddle of steel in Mississippi is taxpayer funds.

7. Yokohama Tire

In 2013, the state provided $130 million in incentives and grants to Yokohama Tire to build a plant in West Point.

6. Toyota plant

It took $354 million in incentives to lure Toyota to the Magnolia State in 2007, where the Japanese automaker now manufactures Corollas in Blue Springs for the home market and for export.

5. Twin Creeks Solar

Amid much fanfare, Twin Creeks Solar received $26 million from the state to build a solar panel manufacturing plant in 2010. Two years later, the company was liquidated and the state was left holding the bag.

4. KiOR

KiOR constructed a plant in 2011 in Columbus to convert wood pulp into cellulosic ethanol with a $75 million no-interest loan from the state. The plant was idled and KiOR is still struggling with financing. KiOR still owes the state more than $69 million.

Guess these folks are happy. Or maybe not.

3. ‘Cultural’ retail destinations

The state of Mississippi is using $155 million in sale tax rebates to help finance the construction of three shopping malls in Pearl, Southaven and near D’Iberville. Thankfully, the program ends this summer.

2. Nissan’s plant in Canton

Smoky burnout

BURNOUT: Nissan was lured to build its factory in Canton by taxpayer funds.

Nissan built its plant in Canton with a huge raft of state incentives in 2003 totaling more than a billion dollars. While the company boasts a payroll of $200 million, a 2013 report by Good Jobs First said Mississippi taxpayers might end up paying $290,000 per job.

1. The beef plant

When political observers in the Magnolia State talk about scandals involving taxpayer funds and crony capitalism, this one is the first usually mentioned. To summarize, the state helped bankroll the building of a beef processing plant in 2000 in Yalobusha County. But the plant went bankrupt in a few months, 400 workers lost their jobs, six involved with the plant went to federal prison on a variety of charges and the state was out $54 million.

Contact Steve Wilson at swilson@watchdog.org Get regular updates on Mississippi through our Facebook or Twitter accounts

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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