Silicor future uncertain as deadline passes

1387955_Silicor_logo_lgCOLUMBUS — Solar silicon maker Silicor Materials has missed another deadline.

The company failed to put up $150,000 in escrow money to show good faith and seal a deal that would have meant hundreds of new jobs to Lowndes County.

The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors in December agreed to extend the start date for Silicor to June 30, 2013. Silicor was to put $150,000 in escrow to ensure its performance by Dec. 31. The money would have been refunded if construction on the silicon metal plant gets started. The deadline has come and gone.

In Mississippi, an initial silicon metal production operation was forecast to employ 200. A silicon metal purifying operation employing about 750 was part of a second phase. Mississippi promised $75 million in loans and grants, and Lowndes County guaranteed to lease the land and build roads and other improvements. The total package was more than $94 million.

Silicor Materials has missed deadlines to get started this year, said Joe Max Higgins, chief executive officer of Columbus Lowndes Development Link, the business recruiting agency for Lowndes and two other counties. Silicor Materials, of which John Correnti is executive chairman, has had trouble concluding funding commitments, Higgins said.

“When they’re dropping the ball on Times Square, when the ball hits zero, if there’s not the $150,000 deposited into our account, we will nullify the loan and incentive package” the county offered, Higgins said. “My people here don’t understand: How can a guy be building a $200 million project and then have a problem with escrowing $150,000 when he’s missed two critical deadlines?”

Correnti said in an interview in December with the Associated Press that he was willing to walk away from the Mississippi project rather than post the money.

“We’re not going to put any money down on escrow. I never have on any project I’ve ever done. If people don’t have the patience for it, so be it. That’s OK,” he said.

Correnti has had mixed success in Mississippi. He was instrumental in opening a steel mill in Columbus in 2007. A Russian company later bought out Correnti and other senior managers and changed its name to Severstal. Correnti also promised a steel rebar mill that hasn’t materialized in Amory.

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