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Miss. Lawmakers Pass Incentives For Tire Maker

Kathy Gelston, chief financial officer of the state's job-seeking agency, Mississippi Development Authority, said the company has committed to an average salary of $35,000, but the state expects higher pay.

Officials and residents from West Point and Clay County filled the capitol galleries Friday to watch the bill's progress. The north Mississippi County has been job-starved ever since then-Sara Lee closed the former Bryan Foods plant in 2007, laying off 2,100 people. Clay County's unemployment rate in March was 18.2 percent, highest rate of any county in the state, and has been higher than 10 percent for years.

"We're just pinching ourselves because we can't believe it's actually happening," Clay County Supervisor R.B. Davis said Thursday.

A few Tupelo-area House members tried to get tax breaks added to the legislation for the existing Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. plant, which has more than 1,600 employees. State Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said Cooper wants sales tax breaks for equipment it plans to buy.

However, MDA officials said they'd rather wait and deal with Cooper separately, and House members rejected the amendment.

Besides state borrowing for bonds, other contributions would include $12 million from West Point and Clay County, $1 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission, $900,000 from the Tennessee Valley Authority and $590,000 from Atmos Energy.

Of the first $70 million in bonds, the state would spend $9.5 million to buy the land, $48 million to prepare the site and extend a railroad line, and $11.75 million to build a worker training center and train employees.

Gelston said the total tax exemptions and rebates for the company would likely be more than $200 million, including $60 million in local property tax breaks, $90 million sales tax exemptions on purchased equipment, $40 million in state income-tax withholding that the state would give to the company, and about $5 million in state franchise tax breaks.

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