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Archive for the ‘Economic development’ Category

Recapping a weird week in the state’s auto manufacturing

October 9th, 2009 1 comment

I’ll have a pretty in-depth look at GreenTech Automotive’s CEO Charles Wang’s plans to build a multi-billion dollar hybrid vehicle manufacturing facility in Tunica in next week’s MBJ.

The strangest thing about Tuesday’s event was the apparent lack of a strong marketing push in advance of it. There were several media outlets across Mississippi — Magnolia Marketplace included — that had no idea the deal was going down when it did. That coupled with the absence of some high-profile politicians and economic development leaders have a lot of folks asking a lot of questions about the odds of the project ever getting off the ground. That’s covered in the story.

It’s probably safe to say this isn’t the last we’ve heard from GreenTech. So stay tuned.

It also looks like the rain is going to last a little longer than it needs to, at least long enough to make rather unpleasant the drive Magnolia Marketplace and the Official Fiance of Magnolia Marketplace are about to make up I-55 for the football frivolity in Oxford.

Have a good weekend.

Categories: Economic development, GreenTech Tags:

New automotive plant in Tunica?

October 6th, 2009 No comments

Updated at 3:15 p.m.: Here is the official GreenTech press release.

A start-up automotive company unveiled prototypes of the cars it one day hopes to build at a plant in Tunica.

Chinese businessman Charles Wang, CEO of GreenTech Automotive, said in a press release, according to the Associated Press, that he hopes to build 250,000 hybrid vehicles a year at the $6 billion plant on a 1,500 acre mega-site in Tunica County.

Employment at the plant, according to Wang, would hover around 4,500.

To this point, scarce few details have been made available from Wang, Gov. Haley Barbour’s office or the Mississippi Development Authority. An MDA representative reached by Magnolia Marketplace declined comment this morning, citing confidentiality agreements.

For details on this morning’s unveiling ceremony, click here.

Feathers already flying in third round of tanker bidding

September 30th, 2009 No comments

The third competition between Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing to land a $35 billion contract to replace the Air Force’s ancient fleet of refueling tankers officially began last Friday. Tuesday, the first serious allegation surfaced.

A Northrop Grumman executive accused the Pentagon of sharing his company’s pricing information from the second bid — which Northrop Grumman won but was overturned after a Boeing protest — with Boeing, without returning the favor in the other direction. The first bid, won by Boeing, was thrown out after a corruption scandal blew up and sent a Boeing executive and an Air Force official to prison.

Clearly, with this much money on the line — the overall impact of the contract to the area that lands it could exceed $100 billion — both companies have their chin straps buckled extra tight.

It goes without saying (actually, Magnolia Marketplace said it recently) that the Mississippi Gulf Coast would reap untold impact cash and supplier jobs if Northrop Grumman wins the bid and ends up building the planes in Mobile.

Tuesday’s development probably is the first of many accusations and allegations Boeing and Northrop Grumman will hurl at each other before this thing is over. Stay tuned.

PSC hears from Mississippi Power, and a golf course opens

September 29th, 2009 No comments

Is there anything better than the first sign of autumn? Yesterday evening just before sunset, as I made the final approach to the barn on the Official Horse of Magnolia Marketplace, the temperature had settled into the 60s and brought a welcome contrast to the broiler of the past few months. Swell. Just swell.

Anyway, there are a few items to pass along.

I’ve been meaning to post this since Friday, but it has somehow escaped the to-do list. Lake Caroline Golf Club, which is reopening after lying dormant for two  years, rolls out the welcome mat tomorrow. Randy Watkins bought the place and has been refurbishing the course and clubhouse the past few months. Kyle Sisk, Caroline’s director of golf and an Official Friend of Magnolia Marketplace, has worn just about every hat imaginable as he oversees the day-to-day operations, refereeing subcontractors and groundskeepers, coordinating a marketing campaign and squeezing in a few hours’ sleep.

The course looks ready. After a sneak preview  Saturday, Magnolia Marketplace is proud to report the clubhouse is ready and the LCD televisions on the wall project college football games beautifully. Well done, Messrs. Watkins and Sisk.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission and Mississippi Power Co. will tee it up next week. The Commission will hold Phase I hearings on the company’s petition to seek a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for its Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle plant in Kemper County.

The IGCC plant, says the company, would capture 65 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and employ lignite to power the process. Mississippi Power estimates the $2.2 billion project would generate 260 jobs once it came online. Ideally, the company would like to begin construction next year and begin operations at the plant in 2014. That might be a tad optimistic, because several environmental groups, including the Mississippi chapter of the Sierra Club, oppose the plant and would probably challenge it in court.

The hearings run Monday through Thursday next week in the PSC’s courtroom on the first floor of the Woolfolk Building.

Defense Secretary Gates makes major move on tanker contract

September 16th, 2009 No comments

The years-old fight between Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing to supply the Air Force with a new fleet of refueling tankers had a pretty significant development this morning.
Since Defense Secretary Robert Gates reopened the bidding due to a Boeing protest after Northrup Grumman had originally won it, his office had total oversight over the rebidding process. That is no longer the case, or as much of the case as it used to be (if that makes sense).
Gates has restored to the Air Force the control over the process it enjoyed before the Boeing flare-up. Gates did say in a speech at the Air Force Association trade show that his office will continue to closely monitor things.
This probably doesn’t provide any sort of advantage to either company as the rebidding moves forward. Northrop Grumman’s victory was greeted with a lot of high-fives in Mississippi, specifically on the Gulf Coast. Northrop Grumman plans to build the KC-45 Tanker in Mobile, which could spin off suppliers and supplier jobs — not to mention direct jobs — to the area. Over the life of the contract, the deal could exceed $100 billion.
George Freeland, the executive director of the Jackson County Development Foundation, couldn’t overstate its potential during a conversation with Magnolia Marketplace a couple months ago.
The details of Gates’ speech can be found here.

Facts and figures from District at Eastover roundtable

September 1st, 2009 No comments

As promised, here are the particulars of Duckworth Realty President and CEO Ted Duckworth’s update of the District at Eastover, a 640,000 square-foot mixed-use development at the site of the old Mississippi School for the Blind that will feature retail and restaurant space, a movie theater, a hotel and residential space built over two phases.

Duckworth is negotiating with the Mississippi Development Authority and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann lease terms that have to be finalized before Duckworth can pursue financing for the $150 million project. The state owns the land, and instead of selling it, plans on leasing it to Duckworth, who in turn will develop the District at Eastover.

Long story short, some of the major parameters of the lease were defined in the legislation that made the land eligible for private development. Duckworth will pay the state rent equivalent to 10 percent of the land value, with the rent escalating 10 percent every five years. What is still unsettled is the payments to the state beyond that, an amount determined by the profits the project generates.

At first blush, this looks like a pretty good deal for the state. Duckworth has not asked for any state money up front. His company would be responsible for the $1.2 million it would take to demolish the existing buildings on the property and build a new executive director’s residence and a bus barn for the School, both of which were written into the legislation as mandatory before construction could start.

The land is currently non tax-producing and sits between Eastover and Woodland Hills, two of the most affluent neighborhoods in Mississippi. Duckworth provided population estimates that have 90,000 people living within a five-minute drive of the District, with those folks having an average annual income of $114,000.

Duckworth’s numbers also said that the project would generate $2.3 million in state sales taxes annually and $2.5 million in property tax revenue for Jackson. It would create 333 new jobs.

Duckworth said that “a lot of progress” has been made in the last couple weeks regarding the terms of the lease beyond the base rent agreement. Obviously, each side is angling to secure the best deal possible, with Duckworth seeking an agreement that would make it feasible for lenders to jump on board and make the project viable long-term. Hosemann and the MDA are trying to make the state as much money as possible as tax revenues continue to plunge.

Duckworth went to great lengths not to paint Hosemann or the MDA as an obstacle to the  project getting underway. The biggest hindrance so far, he said, is that this is a brand new concept in Mississippi — the state leasing land to a private developer for a project of this magnitude — and a fairly new one nationwide. There’s not much of a precedent to guide negotiations.

“Somebody should acquiesce, and it shouldn’t have to be us,” Duckworth said, in what was about as pointed as his comments regarding the negotiations got during the two-hour meeting.

The sales pitch for the project touches on a familiar theme for new development in Jackson: new urbanism. Mississippi does not offer an urban lifestyle that many young professionals want, as evidenced in the 2000 Census that revealed a sharp drop in college-educated people in their 20s and 30s. (Magnolia Marketplace can name dozens of folks that age who have made a beeline for places like Nashville, Atlanta and Birmingham before the ink on their diplomas was dry.) Downtown Jackson has made some strides with things like Fondren and the soon-to-open King Edward Hotel, whose developer, David Watkins, was in attendance today along with other economic developers and members of the Legislature.

Magnolia Marketplace hasn’t been privy to the negotiations between Duckworth and the state, and Duckworth didn’t reveal whether they had taken a confrontational tone, but this deal makes too much sense not to get done. The land is not bringing in revenue. Even if a lease deal is struck and the development goes completely belly-up, what did the state lose? Like Downtown Jackson Partners President Ben Allen says all the time, “One hundred percent of nothing is still nothing.” And that’s exactly what Jackson and the state are currently getting out of the property.

Categories: Economic development, News Tags:

New development update

September 1st, 2009 No comments

The drive in to Downtown is rarely pleasant, owing to the traffic and the inevitable delays, but it nearly became disastrous this morning when the driver of a Suburban felt her cell phone required more attention than the Waterworks Curve on I-55. Magnolia Marketplace is as guilty as anybody of driving and talking, so this isn’t meant to cast any stones. But we could all do better, right?

To some news …

Later this morning, Jackson developer Ted Duckworth of Duckworth Realty will offer the latest about the District at Eastover, the mixed-use development you can learn more about here.

The briefing starts at 11:30 in the Electric 308 building in Downtown Jackson. As usual, Magnolia Marketplace will be there, with details posted ASAP. And it’s a walking trip, so all signs point toward an easier time than this morning’s commute.

Categories: Economic development, News Tags:

State Port at Gulfport

August 19th, 2009 No comments

Moving forward there hopefully will be a new post before this time every morning, but Magnolia Marketplace has just gotten Internet service back after losing it late yesterday afternoon. The final tally: One replaced ethernet cord and one very patient, helpful and probably frustrated IT guy at the corporate office in Minnesota. To some news …

My trip to Gulfport last month for the “ground-making” ceremony at the State Port was one of the neatest things I’ve done since I started here.

Several college buddies live on the Coast, and I’d passed both Port entrances probably 100 times, but the ceremony was the first time it had registered. What jumped out immediately were the hundreds of tractor trailers that had the Chiquita Banana logo on them.

Anyway, the Port is undergoing a rebuilding and expansion as part of the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Word came yesterday afternoon that the Mississippi State Port Authority had awarded a contract to Pennsylvania-based Geospatial Holdings to map the Port’s underground pipeline utilities. Geospatial is part of a team that includes Mississippi Engineering Group, part of Jackson-based Waggoner Engineering, and Pickering Engineers, which is based in Memphis but has offices in Jackson, Pearl, Southaven and Biloxi. The group will eventually map above-ground and underground utilities before the heavy lifting of the 20-acre expansion can start.

By itself the underground mapping contract, according to a press release, is expected to be worth about $3 million over three years. The overall cost of the expansion is $22.5 million, paid for with federal money. Along with expanding it, the Port will eventually be elevated to 25 feet above sea level to minimize damage from future hurricanes. Gov. Haley Barbour’s decision to set aside $570 million in Community Development Block Grants to pay for the elevation has drawn a lawsuit from the NAACP and criticism from several Democrats in Congress who want that money used for low- and moderate-income housing. The lawsuit is ongoing.