Pickering’s office found the state has had a return of $12 for each $1 invested in five incentive programs operated by the Mississippi Development Authority even when taking those failures into account.

The 243 projects studied date back to 2010 and were awarded incentives through five programs – the Mississippi Major Economic Impact Act (MMEIA), the Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund (IIFRF), the Mississippi ACE Fund (ACE), Rural Impact Fund Grant Program (RIF) and the Existing Industry Productivity Loan Program.

The audit cited 11 failed projects. Efforts still are underway to recoup lost state funds – totaling $185.6 million– in some of those projects.

The biggest losses were from Stion and KiOR.

KiOR received a $75 million loan from the Legislature in a 2010 special session called by then-Gov. Haley Barbour to open a $500 million plant employing 1,000 in Columbus to convert wood chips into biocrude. The company went bankrupt and the issue of the lost state revenue – $76.3 million is tied up in litigation.

Stion received $74.8 million from MDA during the Barbour administration to invest $400 million and hire 1,000 at a solar panel plant in Hattiesburg. The company closed and the state is currently trying to recoup those funds.

“Economic development projects have been good for Mississippi,” Pickering said in a news release. “Overall, we have all benefited from industry being recruited to our state by economic incentives. However, we must remain vigilant in ensuring public dollars are only spent on industry with a track record of success instead of risky startup technology.”

Pickering also said that the Legislature should continue efforts to put in place safeguards to properly monitor incentive programs offered by the state. The five studied in the report are not all of the incentive programs offered by the state.

Pickering said the five programs studied have generated nearly 36,000 jobs and more than $8 billion in investment through the incentives they have offered.

 — By Bobby Harrison / Daily Journal