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Miss. Lawmakers Pass Incentives For Tire Maker

By JEFF AMY

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) â¿¿ A Japanese company will get incentives that could be worth more than $330 million to build a tire manufacturing plant in Clay County.

Mississippi lawmakers quickly passed the bill intended for Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. in a Friday special session, with House members supporting it 117-2 and Senate members supporting it unanimously. The entire session took less than four hours.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who called lawmakers into special session, is expected to sign the bill as soon as Friday afternoon. Bryant and the company plan a Monday ceremony in West Point to mark the company's arrival.

"We are proud to welcome this world-leader in tire manufacturing to our great state," Bryant said in a statement.

The company, through its American unit Yokohama Tire Corp., would invest $300 million of its own money in a first phase, hiring 500 workers to make truck and bus tires. In exchange, the state would borrow $70 million to buy land, build infrastructure and train workers.

Yokohama now supplies such tires to the American market through a joint venture plant in Mount Vernon, Ill., as well as importing them from Japan and Thailand. In a Friday statement released from its Tokyo headquarters, the company said a new plant with a capacity of 1 million tires a year is needed "to accommodate the increasingly growing demand for its brand and further strengthen a system aimed at 'local production for local consumption.'"

The company said three additional phases could follow "in accordance with future business growth" bringing company investment to $1.2 billion, total jobs to 2,000, and capacity to 4 million tires a year. The state would borrow and give the company another $60 million to support those phases, $20 million for each additional $300 million phase.

Yokohama, in later phases, could make tires for passenger vehicles, said Brent Christensen, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, the state's job-hunting agency. Yokohama's American unit already has a passenger vehicle tire plant in Salem, Va.

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