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Base hits may be better for area economy

If the Miss-Lou economy were a baseball game, you might say we have had a rough time at the plate recently.

One of our star players, KiOR, hasn’t struck out yet, but with two strikes against this heavy-hitter, it doesn’t look good for the bio-fuels company and for Adams County.

In 2010, Haley Barbour convinced the legislature to give KiOR a $75 million dollar interest-free loan to start a plant in Columbus and build other plants in Newton and southwest Mississippi. At the time, the talk was that one of the biofuels facilities would be located near Bude.

Then in 2012, KiOR announced that it would locate its second production plant in Natchez and bring with it 300 possible jobs.

The Natchez plant was supposed to be three times the size of the Columbus plant. The county has done some work at the old Belwood Country Club property in preparation for the facility. The cost of the levee was estimated to cost $5 million.

In baseball terms, you might consider any industry that has the promise to bring 300 jobs a home-run hitter.

Standing at the plate, KiOR announced earlier this month that they are considering putting their Natchez plans on hold and building their second plant in Columbus instead. With board of supervisors president Darryl Grennell saying that the county is in a “sit-and-watch situation,” Adams County did watch as KiOR took strike one.

Earlier this week, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the company alleging that the company misled investors about the timing of production and production capabilities at its Columbus plant.

The lawsuit, coupled with the fact that KiOR stock has plummeted from a high of $20.74 a share in Sept. 2011 to a little more than $2.50 a share today, would be strike two.

Rentech, another company that promised hundreds of jobs and a multi-million-dollar investment at the old International Paper property at first looked like Babe Ruth, only to turn out looking more like Casey at the Bat.

As exciting as they are to watch, home run hitters strike out a lot. Ruth struck out 1,300 times. It may be that KiOR will strike out in Natchez and hit a biofuels home run elsewhere.

When Rentech struck out in 2010, the Miss-Lou had few good players in the dugout. With the help of Natchez Inc. and support from the business community that has changed.

Risking outs is the chance that teams that rely on heavy hitters take.

Most coaches will tell you that they would rather go after base hits than a home run any day.

While the Miss-Lou has been waiting for a biofuels home run, companies like Enerfab, Genesis and Elevance are on the ground slowly growing. In effect, they have been producing solid base hits.

Enerfab recently poured the slab for its facility exapansion — a $10 million investment and the promise of 45 new jobs. Genesis continues to increase the number of rail cars it handles at the port, growing from 0 to 100 cars per day since the beginning of the year. Elevance may soon announce more concrete plans for Natchez after recent success in Indonesia.

Watching the incremental growth of these base hits may not be as electrifying as a home run, but like baseball games, it may be that the base hits will help Natchez win the game.


Ben Hillyer is design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.