Former Gov. Haley Barbour says 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.
That wasn’t enough to keep the company from going under, and owing the state just more than $27 million in aid used to build an 80,000 square-foot facility in Senatobia and to purchase equipment to put in it. 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 recently.
“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.
Barbour said the state has had success with start-ups before, pointing to steelmaker SeverCorr (now Severstal) in Columbus.
“We spent about $35 million on their facility in Columbus – site prep, drainage, and the like,” Barbour said. “Then we gave them a $60 million loan guarantee, which they have paid off. We’re in that deal about $35 million and they’re in it several hundred million dollars.”
Barbour did not praise or criticize current Gov. Phil Bryant’s recent assertion that the state would be more interested in investing in established companies with a track record of success, rather than start-ups like Twin Creeks.
“For us, when we looked at something that was a start-up, it always came back to how much private investors were putting in. It’s up to (the Bryant administration) to set the policies, to fine-tune them how they think is best. Nobody’s crystal ball is perfect.”