Medical research could be focus of industry draws

Published 11:06 am Thursday, October 25, 2012

Medical research might be the next big thing when it comes to attracting industries to the Port of Vicksburg or Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex, Warren County’s lead economic developer said Wednesday.

The reason is the Health Care Industry Zone Act, signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Phil Bryant. It creates zones in areas of the state where health care-related businesses looking to invest at least $10 million or create 25 or more full-time jobs might be eligible for sales tax incentives.

“Health care is now an industry,” said Wayne Mansfield, Executive Director of the Warren County Port Commission during an address to the Vicksburg Lions Club. “We can go out and market to these pharmaceutical companies, bio-research, even hospitals and say, ‘Guys, you’re permitted to receive the same type of incentives that an industry can receive.’”

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The list can include ad valorem exemptions, workforce development credits, and more, he said. “Everything that a manufacturing plant receives, health care now receives. I think that’s going to be the big thing.”

The act defines a “qualified health care industry” as one that is involved in research and development of pharmaceuticals, biologics, biotechnology, diagnostic imaging, medical supplies, medical equipment, medicine and related manufacturing or processing, medical service providers, medical product distribution, or laboratory testing.

Under the bill, areas might be considered a health care industry zone by the Mississippi Development Authority based on four factors — location within three contiguous counties with a need for more than 375 acute-care hospital beds; is in a county with a hospital with at least $250 million in capital investment and is completed before July 1, 2017; is within a five-mile radius of a facility with a certificate of need for hospital beds; and local zoning laws allow for building or operating a health care facility.

Mansfield mentioned no specific active inquiries into either the port or Ceres, where Laclede Chain opened last year after a string of closures to plants in recent years at the Flowers industrial park. Those included auto parts supplier CalsonicKansei in 2006 and home venting system maker Simpson Dura-Vent in 2008, both of which still own their respective former buildings at Ceres. Calsonic’s old plant is empty, while Simpson runs small-scale administrative functions.

A second industry “on the horizon” of hot industrial tips is aerospace technology and firms that do business with the military, he said, but added a complication could be budget sequestration, or automatic spending cuts, set to take effect Jan. 2 if Congress doesn’t act.

“I think it could have some bearing, especially on military and defense contractors,” he said.

The next expansion at the port will come from Ergon Refining, which plans a $147 million expansion of its facilities there by 2016.