Company looking to bring 300 jobs to Americold site

The vacant Americold warehouse on Church Hill Road could soon be the new site for an unnamed company, which is looking to invest $50 million into the development (Photo by Ryan Phillips, DTL)
By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
DAILY TIMES LEADER

A series of resolutions was approved in a joint city-county meeting that would open the door for a major economic development project to bring $50 million in capital investment and roughly 300 jobs to the area.

The Clay County Board of Supervisors and the West Point Board of Selectmen held a joint meeting Tuesday morning at West Point City Hall with officials from the Golden Triangle Development LINK to discuss the project.

While the company looking to purchase and renovate the Americold building on Church Hill Road has not been named due to the ongoing negotiations surrounding the deal, city and county leaders - along with economic development officials - all showed optimism concerning the financial groundwork of the project.

CITY AND COUNTY MOVE FORWARD

The project would involve the purchase of the vacant Americold building on Church Hill Road, which would then see various upgrades from the unnamed company.

At the joint meeting, the Clay County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution of intent for a 10-year ad valorem tax exemption for a new manufacturing and process enterprise. A separate resolution pertaining to city ad valorem taxes - which mirrored the resolution of intent from the county - was also unanimously approved by the Board of Selectmen.

The city and county will also issue a freeport warehouse license and freeport warehouse ad valorem tax exemption for the project's inventory that is manufactured in the state of Mississippi and stored in separate facilities, structures, places or areas maintained by the company for temporary storage or handling pending transit to a final destination outside of the state of Mississippi.

The ad valorem tax exemptions will apply to all county and city ad valorem taxes, except school district taxes and the mandated levies on all of the project's finished goods.

Along with the approved tax abatements, the city also unanimously approved an amendment to the city's water rate ordinance, which would create a new "high-volume, industrial water and sewer rate class for certain high-volume industrial customers."

LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins told the Daily Times Leader the company is looking to purchase the Americold building on its own, but will require a high-volume of water to operate.

"They use a lot of water, so a rate ordinance amendment for their class of customer was in order and the city approved that today," Higgins said. "That will make them more competitive."

The company looking to locate to West Point would also be required to build a pre-treatment facility to send sewage to the city. Higgins said this would come at a cost of roughly $4 million to the company.

THE PROJECT

Board of Supervisors President Shelton Deanes told the Daily Times Leader the county is taking the project one step at a time and will see how things play out over the next 60 days.

"I was telling some of the other board members, the last time I was president (Yokohama Tire Corp.) came, and this time this product here is coming, so I feel blessed about it," Deanes said.

While the company showing interest in West Point has not been named, the project will operate under the code name "Project Polar."

The 300 jobs mentioned would come over the course of four years if the company commits to buy the site.

West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson told the Daily Times Leader he looks forward to seeing the project become a reality, even though it is still in the early phases.

"We've taken the steps to make this happen, so we will just wait and see," Robinson said. "But we are talking about jobs. Construction jobs. Manufacturing jobs. It's nothing but benefits for our community."

Higgins said the brunt of the jobs coming with the potential development would pay roughly between $15-$17 an hour. He said the deal has been in the works for the last four or five months.

"We try to create jobs equal to or better than the average income and this is actually an increase," Higgins said. "We think that will have a positive impact on West Point and Clay County."

The LINK and local officials anticipate the construction will be done in phases, with each line being installed and made operational before work on the next one begins.

Each line is expected to cost about $10 million.

"The thing we were excited about is it's refrigerated product coming in and frozen product going out," Higgins said. "That's palatable to most everybody. We also think we will see an increase in traffic on Church Hill, but it's not that far to Americold and out to the light."

Higgins said the special meeting was called due to timing and he hopes both sides will be able to make the project possible.

"We're excited and it's a very short amount of time," Higgins said. "(The company is) doing stuff on their side. We had this special meeting so we could tell one story to all of them. It worked out fairly well."

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