We are glad to see Gov. Phil Bryant take the stand he has.
In a 2011 MBJ editorial, we stated that solar energy may be the wave of the future, but Mississippi should be careful where it comes to being an investor in new companies promising the moon — er, sun.
At the time, Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts had just gone bankrupt, leaving that state hanging after an investment of more than $40 million of taxpayer dollars in the business.
Then, there was solar panel maker Solyndra’s bankruptcy, which left stakeholders and industry observers wondering what the firm’s dramatic collapse will mean for the solar industry. At the same time Solyndra was announcing its bankruptcy, Gov. Haley Barbour was announcing his proposed deal to invest $75 million to bring Calisolar, of Sunnyvale, Calif., to Columbus. He said the company would create 951 direct full-time jobs with an average annual salary of $45,000 plus benefits.
Stion, which will make make thin-film solar panels in Hattiesburg, was awarded a $75-million loan from the Mississippi Legislature and plans a Sept. 16 ribbon cutting. The company says it feels comfortable in the marketplace with its thin-film technology.
We warned that public failures by Evergreen and Solyndra should make Mississippi officials much more leery about the millions of dollars they have doled out trying to bring jobs to a crippled Mississippi economy.
Mississippi had also awarded a large loan — $26 million — to solar company Twin Creeks, which was to manufacture crystalline silicon solar panels in Senatobia.
Well, a little more than a year later, Twin Creeks has failed, left town and left Mississippi hanging with a building to sell or lease and $26 million we could be using for something different.
We weren’t careful with our money but that is water under the bridge.
What is important is that Gov. Bryant came out last week and admitted that Twin Creeks was a failure.
He said that in the future he’d prefer that the state not invest in startup companies like Twin Creeks.
According to a story by the Associated Press, Bryant says he’s steering the Mississippi Development Authority away from loaning or giving money to such companies.
“I do not have a preference for startup companies,” he said. “I am conservative because of my audit background and would look more toward companies such as Nissan, Severstal, heavy manufacturing companies with a background in the industry, a clear record of achievement. That would be more of a targeted industry for this administration.”
Amazingly, former Gov. Haley Barbour is defending the decision he made while he was in office on Twin Creeks, despite all of the red flags that were put up ahead of time.
Barbour says he is confident Mississippi will get its money back.
But Mississippi shouldn’t be a debt collector chasing around failed startup companies.
Plus, wasn’t just a few weeks ago, just before the presidential election that Barbour was on CNN saying that it wasn’t the role of government to be picking winners and losers in the alternative energy startup market?
Wow, how things change, and so quickly.
But, Gov. Bryant sees the errors of our ways and intends to be more careful with our money in the future.
At least this was only half of the money we lost in the infamous Beff Plant Fiasco oh so many years ago.
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