MDA to tap state money to spruce up building for TanTec

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Closing a sale on a building for ISA TanTec Inc. at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex is expected sometime next month, as the money eyed for treating wastewater and upgrading access will shift to the state, officials said Monday.

Instead of using a federal community development block grant, which had been part of the initial effort to lure the German-invested leather tannery to Warren County but requires local governments hire engineers and consultants at added cost and time, the Mississippi Development Authority will tap a state-run program geared to fixing up infrastructure at new industries, according to a letter dated May 21 from the agency to Warren County. Supervisors on Monday agreed with the funding shift and accepted the letter for information.

“With the CDBG, you have to hire an administrator and an engineer,” said Wayne Mansfield, executive director of the Warren County Port Commission, as the county board considered the letter. “Since that’s federal money, it requires a pretty lengthy process.

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“The key thing is we’re not waiting three months for environmental clearance. It moves our time frame up at least three months, maybe four.”

Mansfield said he hopes to foster a closing of the sale of the former Calsonic building at Ceres “sometime in July.” The company, which sells leather to national shoe and apparel makers, hopes to start production here in January. In May, the county applied for a $2 million capital improvement loan, separate from the revolving fund, to purchase the building. Terms call for the loan to be repaid over 15 years.

MDA decided against using federal money due a “need of the company to be in the building by the end of the year,” stated the letter, signed by senior project manager Joey Roberts. In sum, $2.65 million will be moved to the state program, dubbed the Mississippi Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund and termed “more flexible” than the federal block grant program. Moving the revenue source to fund a wastewater treatment facility and physical plant upgrades “will save 90 days,” the letter stated.

Mansfield said Starkville-based Clearwater Consultants, which consults the five-member port commission on issues at Ceres’ current sewage lagoon near the Tyson Foods plant, is likely choice to fill the same role as the appointed commission administers the IIFRF money.

In a companion move, county supervisors rescinded earlier votes to hire Professional Grant Management Services LLC and Stantec engineering firm in roles stipulated by rules of the CDBG program.

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. The company’s investment in its first U.S. tannery totals $10.1 million and involves hiring 366 people within five years.