County closes on Rentech land sale

Published 12:10am Friday, August 16, 2013

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s taxpayers are now the owners of the property once home to the county’s most robust industrial sites and later one of its biggest economic development letdowns.

County officials signed the paperwork Thursday to close the real estate deal transferring the title of the 478-acre former International Paper mill property from Rentech to Adams County for $9.25 million.

“The paperwork was executed around noon, and the money was transferred around 2 p.m.,” Adams County Board of Supervisors Attorney Scott Slover said. “It wasn’t very dramatic — there wasn’t a big show.”

The county entered into a contract to purchase the property in March after Rentech placed it on the market earlier in the year. Rentech had purchased the land in 2008 with the announced intentions of building a coal-to-liquids fuel plant there that would have created 400 jobs, but the company later scrapped those plans because of cost concerns.

International Paper operated a mill on the site from 1948 until 2003, when IP phased out production at the Natchez plant because of poor market demand for the products made at the facility.

But with the county’s purchase of the property comes the hope that the land can be sold to new industrial developers.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said the site’s positioning along the Mississippi River and the infrastructure available on it — including an industrial wastewater processing plant — make it the best site on the river for industrial recruitment.

“The supervisors and the citizens of Adams County should really be commended, because this is a bold step, a meaningful step and it is one that has been taken with the utmost consideration, the utmost time and the utmost thought involved,” he said. “Looking at the future of Adams County, it is truly going to be a remarkable piece of property and piece of infrastructure that we are going to market as vigorously as humanly possible.”

Russ said a master plan to maximize the available space on the property will be developed.

“Now that the property is closed and in the access of Adams County, you will see our marketing become souped up on steroids,” Russ said.

“Being able to fully have control and access of the property and being able to market it in your own terms versus where we were previously should make a tremendous benefit.”

The marketing will be a joint effort of the area’s economic development partners, Russ said, including the St. Catherine Utility Authority, Natchez Inc., Entergy and Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Authority.

“All of the major entities that have a stake in the success or failure of moving that property back to production are going to be a party in our efforts,” he said.

“We are going to actively seek all of our partners becoming involved in the marketing effort as well as reaching out to brokers throughout the southeast and site consultants and really educating them on the potential and the value of that property as it relates to their clients and their customers.”

Meanwhile, Russ said Natchez Inc. is in discussions with Natchez Railway about possible use of the property, and three other clients are actively looking at the property.

“(The property) is a big commitment and it should yield us big results,” he said.

“My only request to the general public is that it is such a big investment and such a big opportunity that we are going to take our time and do this correctly and make sure that we maximize the benefit with it, so their patience and understanding as we begin this endeavor is going to be needed.”