After huge back-to-back economic development failures three decades ago, Tishomingo County was described by the New York Times as “all dressed-up with nowhere to go.”
The Northeast Mississippi county, which borders both Tennessee and Alabama, now has a cause for cheer: The Tishomingo County town of Burnsville has been selected by Mississippi Silicon for a $200 million silicon metal production facility that will create 200 jobs.
Mississippi Silicon is a strategic partnership between Rima Holdings USA Inc. and domestic investor group Clean Tech I LLC.
The new plant will produce silicon metal for a range of industries in the United States including the aluminum, automotive and chemical industries, according to Mississippi Silicon. The company says its high-tech plant is expected to be among the most efficient and cost competitive silicon metal production facilities in the world.
Rima Industrial CEO & President Ricardo Vicintin
said the plant will support a global network of silicon metal customers, especially U.S.-based customers. “Rima considered many locations around the world for the new facility, and we greatly appreciate the support and enthusiasm shown by the citizens and government leaders in Mississippi,” Vicintin said in a press statement.
John Corrent, Silicon Mississippi board chairman, said he expects the operation to become “an engine of economic growth in northeast Mississippi.”
The renouncement marks a huge turn of fortune for Tishomingo County after two extreme episodes of economic heartbreak beginning in the 1980s.
In the early 1980s, the Tennessee Valley Authority started building the Yellow Creek nuclear plant in Iuka, a Tishomingo County community of slightly more than 3,000 people. But by 1985, after spending $1.2 billion, the TVA halted work, saying it had overestimated the region’s need for electricity, the New York Times said in a 1993 report.
Unemployment soared to as high as 30 percent in the area where Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee meet.
The Times story noted that residents still remember the hand-lettered sign outside of Handy Sandy’s service station at the time. “Will the last person out of Iuka please turn out the lights,” it read. “Infrastructure in Place.”
Then in the late ’80s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration raised the town’s hopes again with an announcement that Iuka’s Yellow
Creek had been selected as a site to build its new generation of solid rocket motors.
Impressed by the mothballed T.V.A.-built infrastructure of new sewage treatment, water and power lines, and rail and barge routes, NASA decided to spend $1.5 billion to establish its production program in Iuka, according to the Times report.
But after new questions arose about the need for the new motors, Congress killed the financing for the site, which was 80 percent complete.
The Times report compared the effects in Iuka of the cancellation to the cancellation of the $11 billion Superconducting Supercollider, which was to be built in Waxahachie, Texas.
The Times story said many in Iuka held out hope for the project’s survival, believing their effort to make a new solid rocket motor was more concrete and down to earth when compared with the supercollider and its pure research quest for bosons, quarks and forces that are the holy grail of high-energy physics.
About 1,000 construction workers in Iuka were let go as the site closed down over the next year, and 1,000 other employees, including rocket scientists, engineers and support personnel, were laid off as well.
Mack Wadkins, who was head of the Tishomingo County Economic Development Foundation at the time, suggested to the Times the Yellow Creek site could be marketed as a tourist attraction called “the world’s largest outdoor museum to Government waste”.
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