Announcement slated Thursday on industry

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gov. Phil Bryant is scheduled for a Thursday morning appearance in Brookhaven and is expected to announced that American Railcar Industries will locate a plant in Brookhaven, a move local officials have previously speculated could bring 25 to 40 jobs to the area.

The Brookhaven-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce has distributed invitations to Bryant’s announcement, scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at 934 Industrial Park Road. In the event of rain, something organizers fear likely, the announcement will be moved to the Lincoln County Civic Center.

The invitations describe the content of Bryant’s announcement as confidential, but a series of public notices and past comments by officials clearly spotlight ARI as the subject of the governor’s news.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The most recent notices were purchased by the city of Brookhaven and appeared on Feb. 5 in The Daily Leader’s public notices section.

The pair of notices stated that Brookhaven will receive an estimated $650,000 from the Mississippi Development Authority for improvements to a site to be purchased by ARI for the construction of a plant facility.

The site is identified in the public notices as the former location of the Homelite South building on Industrial Park Road.

That location is the address given in chamber of commerce invitations for the governor’s Thursday announcement.

The MDA money will come to the city through the Community Development Block Grant program and will be used for improvements to the former Homelite South location, including the construction of a rail spur. WGK was selected by the city in November 2011 as the engineering firm to undertake the rail spur work, though ARI wasn’t named at the time.

A WGK engineering truck was intermittently visible at the former Homelite South location on Tuesday, with surveying work apparently being done.

Going back a year, to April of 2012, at least six public notices related to the project have been published by the city.

Officials have remained coy, though, in discussing Thursday’s announcement.

During Tuesday night’s city board meeting, Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner called the announcement something that’s been several years in the making but then claimed ignorance of what might be prompting Bryant’s visit.

“We hope he has good news for us,” Bumgarner said of the governor’s announcement.

Following the meeting, Bumgarner declined to offer any comment until after Bryant speaks Thursday.

However, Bumgarner and former chamber of commerce official Cliff Brumfield discussed last November the company’s plans to locate a railcar repair facility in Brookhaven.

At the time, officials didn’t know when the efforts to bring ARI to Brookhaven would be formally concluded, but Bumgarner estimated the number of new jobs coming to the area would be between 25 and 40.

ARI already operates a railcar facility in Bude, in neighboring Franklin County. Brumfield, the local chamber’s former executive director, said the Bude plant was under no threat from a Brookhaven facility.

As of November, Brumfield hoped some kind of construction on the Brookhaven project could begin in early 2013.

Locating a site proved particularly difficult, attested by a number of different locations named in public notices. By November, officials were optimistic the former Homelite South location looked solid, but it was the fourth site considered.

The Homelite South area has been designated a wetlands, a designation that had hampered the viability other locations considered.

Many of the notices published by the city concerned plans to undertake construction in a wetlands area.