Kill the lights, save a job

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Twenty-five companies have been awarded federal funding totaling more than $5 million for energy-efficiency projects, all in the name of job creation and retention.

Earlier this month, the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) announced the round-one awardees under the Mississippi Job Protection through Energy Economic Development Program. A part of the $40,4-million State Energy Program (SEP) and funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the program’s aim is to assist companies in cutting their energy costs through system upgrades, money that can then be used to retain or create jobs.

“As Mississippi strives to become more energy efficient and energy independent, we are seeking innovative ways to reduce energy consumption and spur economic growth,” said Gray Swoope, MDA’s executive director. “ARRA funding through the Mississippi Job Protection through Energy Economic Development Program provides Mississippi companies with the support they need to be more energy efficient, thus reducing operating costs. This leads to stabilizing current employment levels and, ultimately, will create new job.”

The awards ranged from $21,885 to Mid-Delta Home Health Inc. in Belzoni to $500,000 to Laurel Machine & Foundry Company in Laurel. According to the MDA, the companies awarded the $5.2 million in round-one funding will see a total of nearly $3 million annually in energy savings.

Under the program, eligible companies will be able to install energy efficiency upgrades and retrofits, such as lighting, HVAC, industrial systems and other items, yielding significant energy and cost savings. Grantees represent a cross-section of Mississippi’s business community: small businesses, large manufacturers and minority, woman-owned and veteran-owned firms from around the state.

Laurel Machine & Foundry will use its funds to purchase and install a new, 1,500-kilowatt power unit and two, 6,000-pound furnaces to replace its current melt equipment; which was originally purchased in 1979.

Trent Mulloy, president of Laurel Machine & Foundry, calculations show a savings of approximately $85,000 annually from the upgrades.

Viking Range Corporation in Greenwood received $450,000, which it will use to upgrade the HVAC and lighting system in its 250,000-square-foot cook products plant. Bill Crump, director of governmental affairs and executive assistant to the president at Viking, said the plant is the company’s oldest, and has undergone two expansions. Crump said the plant’s HVAC and lighting systems were outdated and costing the company money. Company’s estimates, which Crump called conservative, have Viking saving approximately $50,000 annually in energy costs.

The MDA has not yet set the date for round-two awards. They are tentatively scheduled for early 2010.

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