Miss. lawmakers approve incentives for pipe plant

AP News
Posted: Jan 05, 2010 5:53 PM

Mississippi lawmakers on Tuesday quickly approved incentives for a German company that intends to build a high-tech pipe manufacturing plant in the northwestern corner of the state.

Within five hours after the 2010 legislative session began, both chambers had passed a bill providing $15 million in bonds to help Wilh. Schulz GMBH build the plant in Tunica County, about 20 miles south of Memphis, Tenn.

It will be Schulz's first manufacturing plant in the U.S., and workers will make stainless steel pipes to be used in the oil and gas industry.

The package also allows the state to guarantee a $20 million loan to help the company buy $60 million of heavy equipment.

Rainer Floeth, managing director and chief financial officer of Schulz, said construction could begin soon, and the plant could open in early 2011. The company's Mississippi division will be called Schulz Xtruded Products, or SXP.

"We can really kick off the project in terms of getting the ground broken in Tunica," Floeth said Tuesday at the state Capitol. "We are really having orders on hand and we have demand. So, we are really desperate to start production as soon as possible."

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour announced Monday that Schulz wants to build the $300 million facility that would create 500 jobs within five years.

The bill passed the House 117-2, and it passed the 51-member Senate unanimously.

"I've got to hand it to the governor. I think he wanted to put a project of significance in the Delta, and he did," said Rep. John Mayo, D-Clarksdale, whose district stretches through western Tunica County.

Tunica County is in the northern Mississippi Delta, a region that has struggled with poverty for generations. The county's economy relies mostly on agriculture and casinos, although the casinos have had layoffs recently. The county's 12.1 percent unemployment rate in November, the most recent figure available, was higher than the state rate of 9 percent and the U.S. rate of 9.4 percent.

Billy Pegram, president of the Tunica County Board of Supervisors, said people at home are thrilled about industrial jobs that will pay about $32,000 a year.

"They're tickled to death," Pegram said. "They'll have an opportunity for some jobs."

Schulz is headquartered in Krefeld, Germany.