New Industries

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2008

County hears cost for new industries

By Billy Davis

Using bonds to build new industrial parks in Panola County would cost Panola County government about $500,000 a year over 20 years, supervisors learned Monday.

Board attorney Bill McKenzie shared the figures with the board at its First District meeting, following up on a request to do so.

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More specifically, McKenzie estimated that the county would make an annual payment of $545,000 to pay for $6 million in construction projects. The current rate is 6.5 percent, and the county would have to levy 2 ¾ mills to pay for a bond of that amount, he estimated.

McKenzie’s brief report followed an executive session held in May in which the board of supervisors met with Sonny Simmons, CEO of Panola Partnership.

The board took no action in the meeting, which had been requested by Simmons to inform supervisors of industrial development issues.

Public bodies are permitted to discuss land purchases for industrial development under Mississippi’s open meetings laws.

Reached this week, Simmons stressed that the $6 million figure reported by McKenzie amounted to a rough estimate to show supervisors the budget requirements.

“Realistically the cost is likely much less,” Simmons said. “Plus, it will be done in phases so it won’t be an enormous cost all at once.”

Industrial jobs at factories such as Batesville Casket and Crown Cork & Seal account for one-quarter of Panola County’s jobs, but the growth of that job segment has now led to a need for more industrial property beyond W.H. Harmon Park, Simmons has said in past months.

With large tracts of property nearly gone, the Partnership CEO is urging development of acreage near the Panola County airport and also near Como.

The airport project would be followed by development of more than 500 acres near Como located west of Interstate 55. The so-called mega-site is located east of the interstate.

Simmons estimated in February that development of the airport property and the Como site would cost about $13.9 million. He said then that the airport site would cost an estimated $5.34 million, but a later estimation dropped that cost to $4.1 million.

Simmons is also urging for a fast-track development of part of the airport site that would cost an estimated $1.8 million. That project is now moving forward following approval by supervisors.

Simmons said in February that the Como development would cost as much as $7 million, and much of that cost is gobbled up by purchase of land.

The airport property is owned by the Panola County Industrial Authority, however, thus eliminating the costly land purchase.

Simmons said he planned to attend supervisors’ Second District meeting Monday along with bond attorneys from Jackson.