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Beef Plant lawsuit enters last pre-trial stages

February 28th, 2012 No comments

The pre-trial phase of the Beef Plant litigation is about to end.

The state and the private counsel it hired is suing Georgia-based Facilities Group, in an attempt to recoup the roughly $55 million the state lost when the cull cattle facility in Oakland failed. Facilities Group was brought on board to manage the construction of the plant. Three of its executives were eventually convicted of making an illegal gratuity to former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s campaign.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd took two motions under advisement at a hearing Monday. Lawyers for the Facilities Group argued a motion for summary judgment, which would effectively throw out the case.  Plaintiffs argued a motion to give them possession of the records from the grand jury proceedings that led to the indictment of the Facilities Group executives and Richard Hall, who the state hired to run the facility.

Kidd didn’t rule on either motion Monday, but said he would by late this week or early next week. The trial is scheduled to start March 19.

Dorsey Carson, who represents the plaintiffs, said in a phone interview Tuesday morning that two mediation sessions have failed to render a settlement. Carson didn’t sound optimistic one would be reached before it’s time to pick the jury.

“Both sides have exchanged offers but frankly I don’t think they are going to come up with enough money (to settle it),” Carson said.

It’s likely settlement talks will take on a keen sense of urgency if Kidd denies the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, which represents their last chance to terminate the litigation short of settling. If March 19 arrives and there’s still no agreement, negotiations will probably get super serious.

Official: Automotive support manufacturers looking at Starkville

February 14th, 2012 No comments

Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority President Jon Maynard said at a meeting of that organization Monday that two manufacturers with ties to the automotive industry have started kicking the tires on possible sites in the Starkville area.

According to a story on the Starkville Daily News‘ website, Maynard declined to name the companies, citing confidentiality agreements. Starkville is almost exactly halfway between Canton and Blue Springs, and would make a good geographical match for a company that wanted to do business with Nissan and Toyota. Four-lane highways connect the three cities, so this will certainly be something to keep an eye on.

Maynard also updated the progress on a few other projects that have been simmering for a while in Starkville, including the mixed-use CottonMill Marketplace. The SDN has it covered here.

Relocation tax credit among business law reform bills

January 29th, 2012 No comments

One piece of legislation Secretary of State has included in his business law reforms package aims to make Mississippi more competitive with its northerly neighbor in attracting corporate headquarters.

It had not been filed as of Wednesday of last week. What the bill would do is offer companies that move their headquarters to Mississippi a tax credit equal to 50 percent of the relocation costs.

Hosemann said in early January that Tennessee offers a similar tax credit, and it puts that state ahead of Mississippi in the race to attract new industry.

Recent hotbeds of economic development – Tupelo, North Mississippi near Memphis, Jackson and the Golden Triangle – fare well on other factors companies consider when searching for potential headquarters sites.

“We were ok on our cost of labor, access to affordable energy, water, transportation,” Hosemann said. “We fit very nicely. What we didn’t have was a relocation tax credit, something Tennessee does have.”

Based on the research of a committee Hosemann formed to study the issue, Hosemann said Tennessee has been able to attract between 20 and 30 corporate headquarters since the program was instituted. Tennessee’s law offers an expense credit ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 per job created by a corporate headquarters’ arrival. Mississippi’s law only allows for a five-year tax credit that maxes out at $2,000 per new position, provided the company creates a minimum of 35 new jobs within a year of its relocation. If amended, Mississippi’s law would become most similar to Indiana’s.

Several lawmakers contacted by the Mississippi Business Journal would not comment on the proposal since the bill had not yet been filed.

“In some instances, it cost as much as $100,000 for a headquarters to leave St. Louis, for example, and move their employees here,” Hosemann said.

The credit would only apply to companies that move their corporate headquarters here. Expanding an existing facility or building a new one would not trigger eligibility.

The credit would also apply to companies whose corporate headquarters are already in Mississippi, and that buy another company and move it headquarters here. Transactions of that nature have increased as the economy begins its snails-pace recovery from the recession; they have been especially prevalent within the banking industry.

“The best companies we can get are the ones we already have here,” Hosemann said.