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Barbour plans “major economic development” announcement this afternoon

January 4th, 2010 No comments

Just before Christmas, Magnolia Marketplace made a few predictions for 2010 (read them here) and one of them was that Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead would throw at least one interception in the Cotton Bowl.

Just call us Nostradamus Marketplace.

Anyway, the first workday of 2010 has a chance to prove another of our predictions true, although it is a small chance.

Gov. Haley Barbour is set to make a “major economic development announcement” this afternoon at 4, according to a press release from his office.

Two things jump to mind immediately: One is Toyota and the other is a steel pipe manufacturer that wants to build a facility in Tunica. Based on what Magnolia Marketplace has heard the past couple months, we would be suprised — but not at all shocked — if Toyota announced before March or April that the Blue Springs plant was moving forward. That’s not to say definitively that today’s news from Barbour won’t be Toyota-centric, but it would be a mild upset if it was.

There is a decent chance Barbour will tell everybody that the German manufacturer of steel pipes has resolved the financing issue that has held up the Legislature passing an incentive package. Barbour had planned to call a special session in late October to do so, but that has been delayed while the company got its financial ducks in a row.

It could be either of those two things, or it could be neither of those two things. As soon as we know, we’ll spread the word.

UPDATED AT 10:15 A.M. : Toyota spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel just emailed to say that today’s announcement will have nothing to do with Toyota. “It’s not us,” McDaniel wrote.

So there you have it.

Waterfront property in Downtown Jackson?

December 9th, 2009 1 comment

Just got out of a lunch gathering in Downtown Jackson Partners’ new marketing center, where DJP President and CEO Ben Allen performed one of his patented, high-energy routines.

But the biggest news came when Jackson Developer David Watkins, whose  King Edward project is set to open this week, took the floor and laid out what would be the most ambitious economic development undertaking Jackson has seen in several decades, maybe ever. Basically, it involves a mile-long, concrete-lined canal that winds through downtown from its beginning at Farish Street, also a Watkins project, and ends in a 35-acre lake on Court Street that connects to the Pearl River. One side of the lake would feature a mix of apartments and condos. A gospel music museum and a civil rights museum, which is currently planned to go up at Tougaloo College, have been thrown out as possibilities at the canal’s Farish Street beginning.

Did we mention it was ambitious?

Anyway, Watkins said the Riverwalk Canal and Town Lake is in the extremely early planning stages. His best estimate at a cost is $200 million, which would have to include public money probably in the form of bonds. Watkins said the project could be done in four to six  years, but admitted it would probably take “10 or 12″ to actually complete once the Jackson Redevelopment Authority and the City of Jackson take it over. Watkins hopes to turn it over the city some time in the next 30 days.

There would have to be some property acquisition to make this happen, plus the environmental impact studies and flood control issues. Those processes can bog down pretty easily.

We’ll have a more detailed look at this in our E-Bulletin Thursday morning. For now, we have to wrap some things up for next week’s paper edition of the MBJ.

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Report: Toyota to resume work on Blue Springs plant, open it in spring 2011

December 4th, 2009 No comments

The Nikkei, the Japanese version of the Wall Street Journal, is reporting that Toyota plans to resume construction of the plant in Blue Springs, with the hopes of opening it in the spring of 2011. The plant will initially produce the compact Corolla cars, and start producing the hybrid Prius later.

Details are here. Magnolia Marketplace is burning up the phone lines, and we’ll have a story on the site soon.

UPDATED AT 1:35 P.M.: Toyota is now denying the Nikkei report. Spokeswoman Barbara McDaniel tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that “nothing is decided” but that the company remains committed to opening the Blue Springs facility.

So, after several minutes of burning up the phone lines and getting excited for the folks in North Mississippi, turns out it was a false alarm. For now.

MEC Transformation Tour comes to Jackson

December 2nd, 2009 No comments

The Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Transformation Tour stopped in Jackson this morning at the Hilton on County Line Road.

A few hundred folks crammed into one of the hotel’s ballrooms to hear a handful of elected officials offer their take on the upcoming legislative session.

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant touted the Commission for a New Mississippi’s recommendations to overhaul the state’s budgeting system. Bryant unveiled the plan Monday, and used the same arguments today as he did then.

Bryant said the state desperately needs to develop a strategic plan and tie the allocation of state funds to agencies to the components of that plan. The performance-based budgeting concept is a big part of the Commission’s goals.

“If nobody’s monitoring your level of success you’re probably not going to get much accomplished,” Bryant said. Magnolia Marketplace is writing a story for next week’s MBJ that will take a long look at the Commission’s report and try to gauge how it will play when lawmakers convene in January. Here’s a hint: Some parts of the plan stand a better chance at becoming reality than others.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann touted the new Blue Book and warned against the inclination some legislators may have for diverting 16th Section revenue from school districts to the general fund. Hosemann’s legislative agenda includes reforming the state’s LLC, trademark, tradename and uniform commercial code laws.

Institutions of Higher Learning Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds and State Board of Community and Junior Colleges Executive Director Dr. Eric Clark both said that their respective levels of education were Mississippi’s key to properly emerging from the recession. New State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tom Burnham, who just started his second stint in that seat, echoed Bounds and Clark.

The Transformation Tour started Nov. 9 in Greenwood and will end Dec. 10 in Gulfport. In all, 12 cities across the state will host or have already hosted the event.

Northrop Grumman/EADS drops a bombshell in tanker bid

December 1st, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace was about to call it a day when a Google alert caught our attention.

Several national media outlets are reporting that Northrop Grumman/EADS is threatening to pull out of the competition with Boeing for a $35 billion contract to supply the U.S. Air Force with a new fleet of refueling tanker planes.

In a letter with today’s date on it, Northrop Grumman President and COO Wes Bush told the Pentagon that the company believes the request for proposals basically rigs the competition to the point that it would be almost impossible for Boeing not to win it.

Obviously, if today’s threat became reality, it would be met with a healthy amount of disappointment in the Gulf Coast’s aerospace corridor, and more specifically, Jackson County in Mississippi, where Northrop Grumman’s shipbuilding division is located.

The leaders of the multi-state aerospace alliance that was launched recently, Gov. Haley Barbour among them, made it plain that their first priority was helping Northrop Grumman/EADS win the tanker contract.

Details of Bush’s letter can be read here.

Party switching, number crunching (and special sessioning?)

November 5th, 2009 No comments

After the press conference where seven Simpson County politicos announced that they preferred Elephants to Donkeys, Magnolia Marketplace and a few other media outlets got a few minutes to ask Gov. Haley Barbour some questions.

I’m sure he was thrilled.

Anyway, Barbour reported nothing new about the will-there-or-won’t-there surrounding the special session to deal with incentives for an advanced manufacturing company, presumably a German maker of steel pipes, to build a $300 million facility and create 500 jobs in the Delta, presumably Tunica County.

Barbour did not reveal the name of the company. He did say that it was dealing with “an external issue” that was not related to the agreement between it and the state. He did not elaborate.

“They’re making progress,” he said of the company. “We’re not going to call a special session until that’s fully resolved. I don’t see any problem. I don’t think it’s going to be very long.”

With October’s revenue almost 7 percent below estimates, Barbour will be forced to cut the FY10 budget a second time pretty soon. He is meeting with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee this afternoon, where the JLBC is expected to present a revenue estimate for the remainder of FY10, which ends June 30, 2010.

“There’s no question in my mind that we’re going to need at least $200 million more in reductions in spending this fiscal year,” said Barbour, who cut $172 million from the budget in September.

Making that an even more difficult task, Barbour said, is the state law that says no agency’s budget can be cut more than 5 percent until every agency has been cut at least 5 percent.

“We will continue to have to make significant cuts.”

Budgets notwithstanding, this has been a pretty good week for Barbour. He’s the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and the GOP won two pretty important gubernatorial races Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey. President Barack Obama carried both those states – New Jersey by 15 percent – last November.

Barbour compared Tuesday’s elections to those of 1993, in which New Jersey and Virginia both elected GOP chief executives. Those races, Barbour said today, served as a springboard to the 1994 Contract with America, in which Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Barbour was chairman of the Republican National Committee at the time.

“In the same way, I believe these elections the day before yesterday, where Republicans won and won handily, shows that the American people are not happy with the policies that (Obama’s) administration is pursuing,” Barbour said. “They think there’s too much spending and too much debt.”

Speaking of presidential politics, a reporter from a Jackson television station asked Barbour if he harbored any plans to run for president in 2012, a question Barbour gets often. He responded that he was focused on next year’s Congressional races, in which Republicans will try to party like it’s 1994.

When the reporter pressed him on his gameplan as far as running for the White House, Barbour said he “had no plan to,” which is a long way from slamming the door on the possibility.


Special session may be off for good

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

Rumors are swirling this morning that the German manufacturer of steel pipes that wants to build a $300 million facility, and create 500 jobs, in Tunica is having trouble securing financing.

Separate sources in the House and Senate have said it was their understanding that there would be no special session any time soon, if ever, to deal with incentives for the company, whose name has not been officially released by Gov. Haley Barbour’s office. Barbour announced two weeks ago that there would be a special session last week but those plans were put on hold. Barbour said in announcing the postponement that the hang-up was not related to the deal between the company and the state.

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner had no comment this morning.

No special session this week? (Updated)

October 28th, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace just got off the phone with one lawmaker who doesn’t plan to be in Jackson Friday for a special session to deal with a manufacturer who plans to build a facility in the Delta. According to speculation, a German maker of steel pipes would like to build a $300 million plant in Tunica, creating 500 jobs.

Gov. Haley Barbour announced last week at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob that he would call legislators to Jackson this week to offer the company a state-backed incentive package. Barbour has said state incentives would represent no more than 10 percent of the total cost of the project.

“That is correct,” said one lawmaker, who requested anonymity, when asked if the special session had been delayed. “The deal isn’t dead. They’re still trying to make it work, but it won’t be in time for anything to happen this week.” The lawmaker added the hold-up did not originate from the state or county level, but from the company.

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner would not comment.

Updated at 12:03 p.m. : A source who had just been briefed on the situation said it was a “coin flip” as to whether there would be a special session Friday.

Updated again at 1:12 p.m. : Barbour has just released a statement confirming that there will be no special session this week. In the statement, Barbour said the issue was not between the state and the company. Here is the full text of his statement:

The Special Session planned for Friday, October 30, has been postponed due to a technical issue unrelated to the proposed agreement between the company and the State.

“The company needs additional time to complete its preparations for executing the project, and we expect to call the Legislature in for a brief Special Session as soon as these preparations are complete.

“It is this Administration’s policy not to present projects to the Legislature until all details are finalized, even if the unresolved point is not between the company and the state.”

Barbour confirms special session for next week

October 21st, 2009 15 comments

Gov. Haley Barbour confirmed at the Mississippi Economic Council’s Hobnob this morning that he will call lawmakers to Jackson for a special session late next week to deal with an economic development project in the Delta. The project, Barbour said, is a $300 million advanced manufacturing deal that will crete 500 jobs. He didn’t offer any other details.

Obviously, the first thing that leaped to Magnolia Marketplace’s mind was GreenTech, the Chinese start-up that wants to build hybrid cars in Tunica. The job count or the cost Barbour announced doesn’t match, though. GreenTech’s first phase will cost $1 billion, according to the company, and create 1,500 jobs.

Speculation after Barbour’s announcement centered around some sort of steel manufacturing facility. Really, without somebody coming out and saying it, it will be hard to tell exactly what Barbour has up his sleeve. But Magnolia Marketplace is sure going to try to find out.

Updated at 1:02 p.m. : Just wrapped up a conversation with a source who requested anonymity, and who said that all signs point toward an automotive-related project in Tunica, but not GreenTech. Rather, the source said, an auto parts manufacturer is planning to set up shop. There were no details available as to the name of the company or if it was affiliated with either of the state’s current automotive manufacturers, Nissan or Toyota.

Special session on the way?

October 20th, 2009 No comments

Magnolia Marketplace has had a hard time getting anybody in state government to acknowledge the existence of GreenTech Automotive, the hybrid car manufacturer that has plans to build a facility in Tunica. Getting a comment on the record, to this point, has been impossible.

That trend continued this afternoon. There have been whispers the past few days that there was a special session in the works whose call would include GreenTech. Dan Turner, spokesman for Gov. Haley Barbour, said he had heard of some “discussions” regarding a special session but would not confirm or deny whether the agenda, which Barbour would control, would include GreenTech. For that matter, Turner did not confirm or deny there would even be a special session.

“There’s just not much I can tell you,” he said.

So that’s where we are. Magnolia Marketplace will be at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob tomorrow. Barbour is scheduled to speak. We’ll ask him about it then.