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County: No action on leather tannery before deal closes

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Warren County supervisors still expect to shepherd a lease-purchase agreement this month on the former Calsonic building to keep ISA TanTec Inc. on schedule to open a plant here in January, but have vowed to keep all other requests related to the industry at bay until a purchase price on the building is clearer.
The county board was asked to consider a subordination agreement from RiverHills Bank that would pay for equipment the German-invested leather tannery plans to use to kick-start their first North American plant.
On Monday, that request was put off until a final price on the 140,000-square-foot building at Ceres industrial park is nailed down. Talks are working through agents for Calsonic North America Inc., which owns the building. The company has said the $10.1 million investment in Warren County will create 366 jobs within five years, though supervisors remained cautious because one condition of the loan says the bank can repossess the equipment in the event the deal doesn’t close.
“We’re sticking with the sequence of things we’re supposed to be doing,” Board President Bill Lauderdale said after the supervisors’ regular meeting, during which bank president Joel Horton, attorney Landy Teller and port commission director Wayne Mansfield pitched doing the agreement quickly because the loan would pay for the equipment. Mansfield said the inventory, such as large-area shaving and drying machines, was being ordered from Italy.
“The bank is making a loan to Mississippi TanTec for the acquisition of equipment,” Teller said, adding a six-month time frame the company needed to assemble everything would be “inconsequential to the county.”
“You have the experience, you know nothing happens overnight,” Teller told the board at one point, which drew a response from District 5 Supervisor Richard George, who favored “holding taxpayers harmless” if the company didn’t come and there was no development to tax.
“I’ve had the experience of a lease problem,” George said.
The county has applied for $2 million capital improvement loan to purchase the building, to be repaid over 15 years. Supervisors said they’ve seen only a rough draft of a lease-purchase agreement.
“There’s no rush on this, then, until we get the contract,” District 1 Supervisor John Arnold said.
In June, the Mississippi Development Authority decided to use about $2.65 million in state-run money instead of a federal block grant to spruce up access roads around the proposed plant and build a wastewater treatment system.
In a related move, the board shot down a request from Mansfield and the E-911 Commission to rename the road where the plant plans to operate from Calsonic Way to TanTec Way.
“It’s supposed to aid emergency response,” George said. “Changing names doesn’t help emergency response.”
On a 3-2 vote, with Supervisors George, Arnold and Charles Selmon in the majority, the board essentially directed addressing coordinator Kenny Staggs to encourage a more generic road name idea from E-911.
ISA TanTec, which tans and packs raw leather at plants in China and Vietnam, sells leather to shoe makers including Timberland, Wolverine, Deckers, Clarks, Merrell, Sperry, Rockport and New Balance, among other apparel makers.