Tax break expansion could mean more business for the Pine Belt

Tax break expansion could mean more business for the Pine Belt
Econimic development is expected to increase witht he approval of Senate Bill 2947. Source: WDAM.

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - New business could be coming to the Pine Belt with the governor's signature.

Senate Bill 2947 would allow local city and county governments to expand tax incentives to smaller companies. It is waiting on Governor Phil Bryant's signature or veto at the capitol.

"More companies, more jobs, more tax revenue here to the state," said Todd Jackson, Vice President of Economic Development with Hattiesburg's Area Development Partnership."

Right now, a project must be worth $100-million or more to qualify for tax incentives.  SB 2947 would allow that to be decreased to $60-million or more.

"We work a lot more on projects that are $60-million in nature than $100-million in nature," Jackson said.

In December, Hattiesburg City Council granted ad valorem tax exemptions to over a dozen companies. According to the ADP,  the companies invested $78,548,704.43 into the economy in 2016 and currently employ close to 3,000 people.

Jackson said the fee-in-lieu of exemptions are comparable, but have money going back into the governments. The key, he said, is not putting any cash out for a development, but giving the incentive for the company to perform.

"The fact of the matter is, this allows us to reduce their cost here in the state of Mississippi and allows us to compete at a higher level with some of our surrounding states," said Jackson.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said Mississippi gave away $53-million in incentives last year, not including local governments. Following a nearly $93-million demand to Stion, a failed solar panel manufacturer in Hattiesburg, Pickering said it is important to know how reliable companies are.

"Work with companies with a history, what is their track record? That rules out all start-ups and all venture companies," said Pickering.

Jackson said the ADP does "a lot" before partnering with a company.

"Before a project really gets off the ground, we are analyzing that company, reviewing if they are a publicly traded company," said Jackson. "Obviously there are a lot of financials out on the worldwide web, to make sure we vet that company."

Jackson said that includes reviewing financial history, stability and other background information.

SB 2947 is awaiting approval or a veto from Governor Bryant..