Site of old Moss Point paper plant may be new $2B natural gas facility

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - A pair of decisions in Jackson County eventually could bring in millions of dollars in tax revenues as well as jobs. On Thursday, the Port Authority and the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a lease option with a company called Mississippi Gasification. The company wants to build a natural gas producing plant on the old International Paper site in Moss Point that shut down in 2001.

The county purchased that property five years ago. Some people who pass the old International Paper site simply see  litter and overgrown grass, however, Glenn Johnson sees this desolate plot as a reminder of how the loss of a major industry devastated his community.

"I think about my job is gone," said Glenn Johnson.  "Another thing it's a big loss to Moss Point."

Moss Point and the rest of Jackson County have renewed hope for the old paper plant land after agreeing to lease the land to Mississippi Gasification, a company that will convert a petroleum biproduct into natural gas. The company has secured $300 million in Katrina Relief Go Zone money to build the plant but still needs $800 million in guaranteed loans from the Departmnet of Energy as well as environmental approval from the agency. In a few years, if all goes well, county officials say that could mean jobs and tax dollars.

"This is a wonderful thing for Jackson County," said supervisor John McKay. "It's a potential $2 Billion business coming in to Jackson County. It's a clean industry that will fit right into our environment and the area where it's going right in Moss Point. "

Jackson County leaders are estimating the new plant could bring 250 to 300 jobs. As far as annual tax reveunue, estimates are $8 million to $10 million for the Moss Point School District, $5 million to $6 million for the city of Moss Point and for Jackson County $10 million.

George Freeland, the Jackson County Economic Development director, urges cautious optimism.

"The lease option entered into here today by the port commission and the board of supervisors allows the company to move to the next phase of permitting and loan guarantee applications," aid Freeland.

Mississippi Gasification will pay the county fro $11,100 a month for 36 months as it works to get all the permits and funding it needs. If that works out, the company use its lease option and pay $650,000 in a 50 year lease.

The agreement also includes the lease of the Ed Mayo School property from the Moss Point School District.

Here's an interesting note on the Mississippi Gasification. The company is a subsidiary of Leucadia National Corporation. Leucadia is a very diversified company. In fact, it's the group that helped Hard Rock Biloxi emerge from bankruptcy. It has controlling interest in Premier Entertainment.