State takes a hit on Twin Creeks

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Published: December 28,2012

All is quiet at Twin Creeks at the end of 2012.

All is quiet at Twin Creeks at the end of 2012.

Twin Creeks will not be making solar panels in Senatobia.

The company has been sold, and the buyer will not honor the agreement the company had made with the state.

In 2011, lawmakers approved a $50 million loan package, about half of which the company got from the state to build an 80,000 square-foot production facility and to buy equipment. The state is currently negotiating a settlement with what’s left of Twin Creeks and seeking a tenant for the building.

Before it went into business with the company, the vetting process for Twin Creeks revealed a company that had an advantage over its competitors because it used 4 percent as much silicon to make its solar panels, said former Gov. Haley Barbour, who was in office when the state courted and landed the project.

China’s decision to flood the U.S. solar panel market with products even cheaper than Twin Creeks’ was what did the company in, Barbour said, echoing what Mississippi Development Authority officials have said.

“We thought it was a company that could compete very successfully,” Barbour said in an interview with the Mississippi Business Journal. “They had an agreement to sell quite a large number of solar panels in India. Indian officials even came to the groundbreaking. Those expected contracts fell through when the Chinese ran the price down so much. So while Twin Creeks could beat everybody’s price over here, the Chinese didn’t care what the price was. The Chinese were interested in employment. They’ll sell the solar panels for whatever they get. They don’t care about profit.”

To go with its contracts in India, Barbour said Twin Creeks had more than $100 million in private investment committed, something he called “a key indicator” as to whether the company was legitimate. The private investors invested about $100 million in Twin Creeks. The state invested about $25 million, about 80 percent of which was the building.

“We’ve got this really first-rate building,” Barbour said. “In the spring, when Twin Creeks told us what was happening with the Chinese, they actually brought a company to look at the building, but it ended up going to New York state.”

Barbour said Incentives were “important but not a necessarily decisive” factor in economic development and job-creation. “They didn’t come to Mississippi for the incentives – they liked the workforce, logistics, and only if you get over those two hurdles do you start talking incentives. Nobody’s crystal ball is perfect.”

 

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