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German pipe manufacturer breaks ground

TUNICA — A German company broke ground on a $300-million pipe manufacturing plant today in Tunica County, kicking off a development that officials believe will have far-reaching economic benefits.

“It’s not only huge for Tunica County, but it’s huge for the entire state of Mississippi, especially the Mississippi Delta,” said Larry Liddell, public information officer for the county.

The plant, slated to begin production in December, is Wilh. Schulz GMBH’s first manufacturing facility in North America. Construction on what will eventually become a 450,000-square-foot installation is set to begin May 1.

The company’s initial $80 million investment is expected to create 200 jobs. Schulz plans to increase that to $300 million over the next five years, boosting the number of new jobs to 500.

Tunica officials expect some of those hired to come from within the county but with so many jobs, more will be hired from outside the area.

Tunica had a 19.7 percent unemployment rate in January, the most recent figures available. That was far above the 12 percent rate for Mississippi and the 10.6 percent for the United States. Unemployment rates in adjacent Delta counties were also much higher than state and national percentages.

Officials hope the plant will attract more retailers and other industries.

“It’s the beginning of an era, an industrial era, for Tunica County,” Liddell told The Associated Press. “We’ve had the gaming industry here for 15 years and we’ve courted other industry, but for some reason or another they’ve decided to go elsewhere. Schulz has taken a chance on Tunica and we appreciate their confidence and know that they made a wise choice.”

Tunica was chosen from about 300 U.S. counties that had sought the project.

Earlier this year the Legislature approved an incentive package, providing $15 million in bonds to help with the construction, and guaranteeing a $20 million loan to help the company buy $60 million in heavy equipment.

Officials for Schulz, based in Krefeld, Germany, said the Mississippi division will be called Schulz Xtruded Products, or SXP.

“We have enjoyed working with officials from the state of Mississippi and Tunica County and other local leaders on this project, and we eagerly await the opening of this plant at the end of the year,” Rainer Floeth, president and chief executive officer of SXP, said in a prepared statement.

The plant already has orders for pipes that will be manufactured at the new facility, Floeth said. The plant will use a new process to bond an expansive, corrosion-resistant material to the pipes’ outer layer. The pipes will be manufactured for the oil and gas industries.

“We could not be more pleased that this premier global company chose to locate its first North American production facility in the Mississippi Delta, and I am proud that Schulz officials have placed their confidence in the state’s work force and in our business climate,” Gov. Haley Barbour said in a prepared statement.

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