Oreck Exit Prompts Supervisors To Review Incentives

Harrison County supervisors, still stinging from Oreck's announced plant shutdown, are reviewing the county's policy of offering incentives to prospective industries.

"It seems to me like common sense would say, if you're going to give somebody all these incentives, then somehow or another we need to be sure that we're protected," said supervisor Marlin Ladner during Monday morning's discussion.

Supervisors raised questions and concerns about Oreck's exit. Despite a bundle of incentives from Harrison County, the vacuum cleaner maker is leaving the Long Beach industrial park and moving to Tennessee.

"Incentives that were given, the tax exemptions, the property that was sold. And we can look at those policies that were in place then and we can evaluate those and see where we need to go in the future. And see if there is a better way," said economic development director, Larry Barnett.

Supervisor William Martin says the incentive issue involves property in this case; property the county sold to Oreck at a bargain rate.

"My question would be, are there reverter clauses that would allow the property, if you're going to leave after a certain time, then the property has to be sold back to the county at the same price that we sold it to you," said Martin.

One suggestion during the discussion involves a yearly review of any company granted incentives; to make certain they're maintaining promised employment levels or other guarantees.

"You make a decision, a logical decision as to whether or not that company is actually living up to its obligation," said supervisor Connie Rockco.

"It's a two way street. You get a deal, and so do we get a deal. If it's just a one way street, you get a deal and we get the shaft, so to speak. That doesn't make sense," said Ladner.

"I think that's the issue. Is what we're doing now working? Or do we need to change it?" said Rockco.

The board of supervisors will hold a workshop next month to further discuss the issue with the Harrison County Development Commission.