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$300 Million Mississippi Plant On Hold

Company that wants to build $300 million plant in job-hungry Mississippi Delta still trying to arrange private financing, so plans for a special legislative session are on hold.

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- A manufacturing company that wants to build a $300 million plant in the job-hungry Mississippi Delta is still trying to arrange private financing, so plans for a special legislative session for the project are on hold, Gov. Haley Barbour said.

"We're in touch with them every couple of days and with the people who are financing them," Barbour said at a news conference Thursday. "We don't consider anything about it to be fatal to the project. But it does all have to be worked out."

Barbour had said in late October that he would call lawmakers to the Capitol to consider state incentives for a "very sophisticated, advanced manufacturing" operation.

The governor and state economic officials have not publicly named the company, in keeping with their practice of withholding information about projects until a firm is ready for an announcement.

Lawmakers have said they expect it to be a German company that makes stainless steel pipes for oil and gas production, and that the factory would be built in Tunica County, south of Memphis, Tenn.

Legislators begin their 2010 regular session in early January, and Barbour said he doesn't anticipate calling a special session before then unless private financing for the plant is resolved. A special session usually costs at least $30,000 a day.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, said in October that the state is being asked to spend less than $30 million on incentives. He said the state would get the money back if the company doesn't meet its obligations, including creating 500 jobs in five years.

In October, the most recent month for which statistics are available, Mississippi unemployment was at 9.5 percent, matching the national rate. Tunica County's unemployment rate was 12.9 percent.

Lyn Arnold, president and CEO of the Tunica County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation, said Friday that she hopes the company can work out its private financing.

"It would have a great impact on this county," Arnold said. "This is a very good company and they're going to create a large number of jobs."

Barbour said in October that state officials had been courting the company for several months. He said the deal between the state and the company was completed during his a 13-day business trip to Asia in late September and early October.

The Delta has long been one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest states in the nation. Tunica County's economy relies largely on agriculture and on a row of casinos along the Mississippi River.

Barbour has also been emphasizing job creation to help pull Mississippi out of recession and to boost revenues in a state where tax collections have fallen short of expectations for 15 consecutive months.

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