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04/27/2019

Justices Pave Way for 100-plus New Jobs

 

With the county having already secured a reported 240 new jobs over the last several months, the Mississippi County Quorum Court unanimously approved two measures aimed at creating more than 100 additional employment opportunities on Tuesday evening.

One ordinance offers Canadian based Atlas Tube a $1,050,000 incentive package for its expansion, which would create 70-75 jobs. The Atlas plant in Blytheville currently employs 100.

The county has committed $12,000 per position held by a Mississippi County resident and $6,000 per job filled by a Dunklin or Pemiscot County resident for a total of $900,000. The measure also offers $150,000 for training.

A second approved economic development ordinance offers $360,000 in incentives for Project Beta, which is expected to create 30 new jobs at the old Blue Oak facility in Osceola. The county would pay the company $12,000 for each Mississippi County resident it employs.

Mississippi County Quorum Court Justice of the Peace Bill Nelson, who chairs the Planning and Development Committee, told the board that he wanted to make Atlas an offer it couldn't turn down.

"The state has offered them a very competitive incentive package," Justice Nelson said. "We want to offer them one that they can't say no to. We want to offer them $12,000 for a Mississippi County resident; we want to offer $6,000 for residents of Dunklin and Pemiscot County. And zero for Craighead. I just had to say that."

Justice of the Peace Michael White did express some trepidation about Project Beta's incentives after reading coverage of a recent Osceola City Council meeting. He noted the Osceola Times piece indicates turmoil regarding the future of the Fruit of the Loom building.

"It looks like there is a lot up in the air for us to be appropriating $360,000 when we don't know if they are going to have a building or not," White said.

Mississippi County economic developer Clif Chitwood said the company would operate out of the Blue Oak building, not Fruit of the Loom.

"The Fruit of the Loom building doesn't have anything seriously to do with Project Beta as far as the county is concerned," Chitwood said. "They are going to purchase the Blue Oak building and they're going to smelt materials in it."

Fruit of the Loom would be used for storage, he added.

"Blue Oak was an Al Gore project," Chitwood said. "They were going to smelt telephones and take out gold and silver and copper. And the furnaces didn't work and burnt up. So, the company closed and (Project Beta's firm) bought the building before it could move into a bankruptcy sale. They do need some storage space, and they prefer for it to be in the Fruit of the Loom building. It's my understanding, barring something that I'm not aware of, that the mayor (of Osceola Sally Wilson) has made arrangements that they will have storage space they need in the Fruit of the Loom (building). That article was long and it was somewhat confusing, but the mayor has assured me that she has enough space to satisfy their storage needs. It would be available to them inside Fruit of the Loom. But their actual operation will be in the Blue Oak building, which is a relatively new building. They could rent storage anywhere; they could build storage. We won't expend any dollars until they actually move in Fruit of the Loom."

County Judge John Alan Nelson said Chitwood, Justice Nelson's board and the Great River Economic Development Foundation have done "a stellar job in the month of April in making jobs happen in Mississippi County."

In other news, the Quorum Court approved a cleanup budget ordinance for 2018 financials.

Justices also approved an appropriation measure for a scale house assistant position at the county landfill, as well as an appropriation ordinance that covers a coroner van and fuel, mowers and utilities and security at the Juno and Snyder buildings.

The court passed a measure that determines who is in charge at the Mississippi County Sheriff's Office if there is an emergency vacancy in the sheriff's position. Until the Quorum Court appointed a new sheriff during an emergency, the post would be temporarily filled first by the CID captain, then if necessary the patrol captain and finally lieutenant of patrol training if the other two are unable to perform the duties.

Also Tuesday night, White reported that the state has agreed to fund new voting machines for the county, paying all of the $580,000 expense.

He noted the county had appropriated half of that amount in case it had to split the bill with the state.