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Quick approval of project bond plan predicted

Area lawmakers expect a state bond package to help lure a $300million economic development project in Lowndes County to passwithout difficulty during a special session Friday.

“I don’t see any dissent on this plan. I think it will passroutinely,” said District 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett,R-Brookhaven.

Barnett said he would be unable to attend the special sessionbecause he would be with the governor at a meeting of the AmericanLegislative Exchange Council on health care and other issues inSouth Carolina Friday.

District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, D-Brookhaven, and District 53Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, also said the proposal is likelyto pass, but added that they had yet to “delve into the details” ofthe plan.

“We’re just going to have to look at it and see what the packageis,” Hyde-Smith said. “It looks like a very positive thing. I justwish it was in Southwest Mississippi.”

Moak agreed, but added that he believes the Legislature canfinish the special session on Friday.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see us here during the weekend, butit can be done on Friday,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has hadthe time to really delve into what’s there, but it’s similar tothings we’ve done before.”

Legislators learned of the 9 a.m. Friday special session lateWednesday afternoon.

The governor has asked legislators to consider a $48.4 millionpackage of state-backed bonds to help attract a project with aninitial private capital investment of at least $300 million. Theproject would create 500 initial full-time jobs with salariesranging between $36,000 and $40,000 per year, according to PeteSmith, the governor’s press secretary.

The company’s estimated annual payroll would be $18 million at apowertrain manufacturing and assembly plant on a 394-acre site inLowndes County. Should the site be chosen, production is expectedto begin in 2010.

The company has requested that it not publicly identified, butSmith said it is a Fortune 200 multinational corporationheadquartered in the U.S.

The state portion of the project includes on-site improvementssuch as roads, site preparation and the extension of water andsewer services and off-site items like infrastructure and workforcetraining, Smith said.

In addition, he said, Lowndes County has a local incentivepackage that includes purchasing land and a long-term landlease.

Hyde-Smith said it is important for lawmakers to move quickly onthe proposal.

“I understand the timing is critical and we’re not the onlystate being considered,” she said.