VT Halter loses some federal grant money - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

VT Halter loses some federal grant money

VT Halter employs about 700 people. (Photo source: WLOX) VT Halter employs about 700 people. (Photo source: WLOX)

Jackson County supervisors confirmed a decision by the Mississippi Development Authority to withdraw federal grant money from VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula. 

The amount in question is $1.8 million from the total original amount of $22 million in community development block grant money. The decision was based on jobs that were promised but fell short of expectations.

Documents from the MDA show 163 jobs have been created at Halter with the block grant money.  County officials say that's far short of the 400 that were promised, and that's why supervisors voted the way they did.

“Anytime that there is a change in what the company may say they can do, then we need to review and adjust accordingly,” said Supervisor Melton Harris. 

Harris also offered his thoughts about the business climate in the shipbuilding industry.

“I won't say it's the economy is changing. Maybe it's changing more of their plans right now, to see what they can do to maybe even save money,” Harris said. 

There could be reason for optimism though. That’s the opinion of Supervisor Randy Bosarge.

“I think it's something they might be able to come back and get later. I'm not sure about that, but I still think that they can still meet the quotas, hopefully, and be able maybe to come back and get that money,” said Bosarge.

Members of the board of supervisors say while they're disappointed that things haven't worked out quite as well as they wanted to at Halter, it also shows the system works.

“If the requirements aren't met for the jobs put in place that they promised, then they actually do not get the money and the money is pulled back. So, it gives us faith in the system,” Supervisor Troy Ross said. 

Even with this setback, county leaders say the company is moving forward. 

“Even with things seeming kind of bad right now, I think looking down the road that they see more stuff coming, because they're not just walking away from the project. They're actually putting money into the project themselves,” Supervisor Barry Cumbest explained.

Company officials say this development was not surprising, and they plan on continuing with expansion plans and improvements at the shipyard, with the company picking up the tab. That includes $10 million for a new paint and blast facility, even though there's not guarantee of future employment. 

Halter CEO Paul Albert said the downturn in the oil and gas industry has caused much of the problem. He also acknowledges that employment has fallen from a high of 2,000 a few years ago to 700 today.

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