Future Pipe Closure Raises Incentive Questions

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County offered a five year tax exemption and other significant incentives to convince Future Pipe to locate a plant here. But with the company now closing, some supervisors are wondering just how much the county should be expected to sacrifice to lure such industry to Harrison County.

It's common practice for local or state governments competing for business and industry to lure them with attractive tax exemptions or other incentives. But how much is too much? That's a question some supervisors are asking in the wake of Future Pipe's shutdown announcement.

Harrison County helped land Future Pipe by granting a five year tax exemption and allowing the company to purchase nearly 50 acres at a bargain price.

"You know, from $ 55,000 an acre appraised value to six thousand dollars actual sale. That's a lot of money. I used to say the taxpayers were taking it on the cheek, but this time I think they got blunt force trauma to the head," said District 3 Supervisor Marlin Ladner.

Ladner questions whether tax breaks and cheap land make that much difference.

"When you're talking about millions of dollars in investments and you're talking about two or three hundred thousand dollars in the scheme of things, to that company that's not that much, but that can be a lot to the county," said Ladner.

District 5 Supervisor Connie Rockco says the county could have the best of both worlds by adding some clauses of its own to incentive packages.

"Some accountability. Some ways to say or to check on the amount of employees they say they're employing. And to make sure there are not layoffs. And make that as part of the package," said Rockco.

One supervisor said while he agrees the county must be careful about what's included in tax breaks or other incentives, it must also consider the economic boost a company brings the community.

"We have to look at the true value of what we get in. Unfortunately, with Future Pipe leaving, we have to look at what we gained: 147 jobs with an average pay of fourteen fifty an hour. That's over four million dollars a year in payroll taxes alone that comes back to Harrison County. School taxes. City taxes. County taxes," said District 1 Supervisor Windy Swetman.

Larry Barnett told WLOX News in the three years he's been development director, Harrison County has approved about $500,000 in tax exemptions. However, he estimates the resulting economic benefit at nearly $140,000,000.